30 Mar 2018

30 Mar 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Two: At Sea From Ushuaia To South Georgia

One of the things about the Plancius is her normal speed is around 11 - 12 knots when sea conditions allow. Therefore, we would travel around 275 nautical miles in a 24 hr period. South Georgia is around 1100 nautical miles from Ushuaia, so we were expecting to be at sea for four days. Anybody taking a trip on ships like the Plancius has to be happy to spend a fair bit of time looking at sea. Travelling at 12 nautical miles an hour doesn't sound a lot, it is only about 14 miles an hour. But travelling that steadily means Seabirds can often keep up with that speed & thus spend longer in the wake or speed up and cross the bows. A faster cruise ship would not have that advantage. When we got to the calmer Tropics we were often able to pick up Cetaceans at over a nautical mile ahead of us, with large Whale blows at greater distances. But that was only about 5 minutes sailing away. If they were only surfacing occasionally, we could quickly lose them as we sometimes misjudged where they would re-reappear relative to our position. Even when we were watching Cetaceans on the surface, then we passed them all too quickly, unless a decision was made that we would stop the ship & slowly approach them.
The Southern Ocean seas: The weather had deteriorated overnight, but it wasn't too bad in the morning.
By lunchtime, the Plancius had started rolling more significantly & all the decks, apart from the bridge wings were closed. This wasn't great as the more hardy Birders were all trying to pack into a small area, not helped by the limited handholds when the rolling got worse. Having footwear with a good grip was essential for the next two weeks while we were at sea. It wasn't feasible to try using the camera at this point, given the number of Birders & the sea state. In the end, I carried on birding from the comfort & warmth of a chair by the window in the observation lounge: which was surprisingly OK.
Grey-headed Albatross: Adult. My favourite Albatross
Grey-headed Albatross: Grey-headed Albatrosses are circumpolar & occur North as far as about 35 South, although we only saw them on the crossing from Ushuaia to South Georgia
Kerguelen Petrel: My first Kerguelen Petrel. I saw a few most days we were at sea in the Southern Oceans with the last seen as we approached Gough Island
Antarctic Prion: I saw them daily on the crossing from Ushuaia to South Georgia. These are presumably the South Georgian banksi subspecies (although to be certain you need to see one with a spray can in the foot)
Antarctic Prion: The same individual. The darker grey chest patch, the heavier bill & a stronger M on the upperparts help to separate this species from the Slender-billed Prion (see the Post for Day One at Sea from Ushuaia to South Georgia)
White-chinned Petrel: This was a fairly common Petrel seen in the colder Southern Oceans with the last ones that I saw being as we approached Gough Island
White-chinned Petrel: Not as sharp as I would like, but very atmospheric
South American Sealion: I was surprised to see this individual so far out to sea which I think is a South American Sealion rather than one of the Fur Seals

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