8 Nov 2014

8 Nov 14 - At Sea Off Henderson Island Produces A Family Photo Tick

With the weather forecast not looking good, there was no chance of a landing on Henderson Island today. Coupled with an up market expedition ship planning to visit, then there would be competition for the island, had landings been possible. Although in reality, Matt & his guys sounded like they had far more chance of getting us ashore than the posh boat would have & they weren't happy to try today. So the alternative plan was to go seawatching & chumming around a sea mount 20 nautical miles offshore. Generally, the bottom of the sea was very deep between the islands (at least a mile deep from looking at the sonar depth gauges & speaking to the crew). However, occasionally there were sea mounts which came up to within a couple of hundred metres of the sea level. There are probably areas of old volcanic activity which never reached the surface, before becoming inactive. They stick up out of the deep sea bed like mountains on land. While mountains can get very windy with strong updrafts, the seamounts get a similar motion in the sea: which results in an upwelling of nutrients from the deep seabed. This in turns provides food for Fish & other Sealife and hence food for Seabirds & Cetaceans.

During one of the lulls in the Birding, when it was raining, I took the chance to sit on the bench on the lower deck & get some photos of the sea, just to help to show the motion of the boat. I don't want readers of this Blog to think we were enjoying ourselves all the time.
This is what the sea should be like to make it most comfortable
This is a sequence of photos taken every few seconds showing the reality of the motion from the lower deck.
Going down
Now rolling to port
Rolling to port
Rolling to starboard again
Finally back to port again
In these conditions, it was important to keep an eye on the sea.
The advantage of sitting on bench was my feet were generally dry as water was erratically flooding onto the lower deck, through the drain holes on the deck
Occasionally, the sea arrived in a more dramatic way
Every more occasionally, I would get caught out.
It was time to go & join the others for a coffee break down below deck (they had already been lured their on the promise of freshly made banana cake). Coffee break over, it was time to go back on deck for some seawatching. Soon after we got back on deck there was a shout for a Storm-petrel: which turned out to be a Polynesian Storm-petrel. This was one of only three seen on the trip: one of which I missed & the other which I saw (but failed to get any photos of it). So I was really pleased to get some reasonable shots of this individual, despite the rain shower. This is a species we were all keen to see, especially as it wasn't a guaranteed species for the trip.
Polynesian Storm-petrel: This species breeds on a number of islands in Tropical West & Central Pacific from Vanuata to Sala y Gomez Island. Another Family Photo Tick for the Blog
Polynesian Storm-petrel: The combination of the large size, broad wings, dark upperparts, white crescent wingbar & white rump on the upperwing & white throat & black breast band on the underparts, made this an easy Stormie to identify. Unfortunately, it didn't hang around the boat & after a brief period, it quickly headed away
There were a number of Pterodroma Petrels seen during the day, but I will leave them for the next Post.