Today was spent aboard the Clipper Adventurer. It was our first full day out at open sea. The fog has come in, and the water is rougher than yesterday. Some people are feeling a little seasick. I am actually enjoying the roll of the ship. I have found the safest way of walking is to have a very wide stance and keep your knees very loose. It is easier to keep your balance that way, even if it doesn't look very graceful.
Today we saw imperial and wandering albatross, and white-chinned petrels. Since we left Ushuaia, Argentina we have also seen dusky, hourglass and peer's dolphins in the waters near our ship. The dusky dolphins actually played at the bow of our ship for more than a half-hour as we came through the Beagle Channel and into open waters towards the Falkland Islands.
Yesterday we had two landings off-board. We used large rubber boats, called Zodiacs, to travel from the ship to the shore. They carry eight people and the helmsman. The morning trip was to Beeker Island. We hiked from the sandy shore all the way across the island. Along the way we saw sheep and herford cows. Yes, there are people who live there year-round, and actually try to farm. (It was a 56-degrees. How warm was it where you are? Don't forget, it is summer here south of the equator.) While walking, we saw upland and ruddy-headed geese. There were also black-necked swans, skuas with chicks and magellanic penguins. After crossing the pasture we came into tussock grass, over 5-feet high. One of the guides, a botantist from Homer, Alaska, pulled up a stem of the grass and let us sample the crunchy stem. It tasted a little like celery, but no strings. Actually I think it would be really tasty in a salad. Conrad, the guide, said he prefers the South Georgia tussock and we will have to try a taste comparison when we arrive there.
There, just beyond the tussock, we came to a rock hopper penquin colony, high on a cliff top above the water. There were hundreds of rock hoppers. Do you know why they are called that? Right, they actually hop from rocks to rocks. All the way across a cliff, over the edge, down the face and plunge into the ocean. It was really noisy. (I am now working on perfecting my rock hopper call.) The chicks were molting, loosing there soft downy feathers and growing sleeker, warmer feathers to get ready for swimming in the ocean and feeding themselves. It was a wonderful hike. Well worth the 5am wake-up call to be able to go on it.
Back to the ship for brunch, then lunch and a lecture. The ship cruised around Beeker Island and into Port Stanley. There we went on another hike along the coastline through a native vegetation preserve. We saw an abundance of birds, and were able to walk right through the burrow-nest area of the magellanic penguins. They would pop their heads out of the burrow holes, with no fear of us passing by. At a cliff overlook, above Gypsy Cove, we were able to view a beautiful night heron on its nest and several striking, red-headed turkey vultures. Every thing has a place.
There is much more to tell you, but it is difficult to pull away from what I am doing to write about what I am doing. I feel like I don't want to miss a thing! There is so much to learn, to experience, to consider. I am struck by the vastness of the ocean, the smallness of our ship, and the beauty of our planet. I promise to keep soaking it all in and bring back as many stories for you as I can.