9 Apr 2018

9 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twelve: Arrival At Gough Island

After four days at sea, we awoke knowing we only had the final hundred nautical miles to reach Gough Island: which was going to be another Seabird spectacle. Gough Island is uninhabited with the exception of a handful of staff at the small meteorological base including a small RSPB research team. Ignoring the occasional visits from supply ships, there must be very few other ships that visit Gough Island during the year. It is probably the most isolated island we visited. There will certainly be a lot more visitors to the Falklands & South Georgia than Gough Island ever gets. The island is around 8 miles long by 4 miles wide with a total size of 35 square miles.
The small meteorological base was on the far side of Gough Island: (10 Apr 18)
Looks like one of the meteorological team or RSPB researchers is photographing us: (10 Apr 18)
There was definitely an air of excitement on the ship today as Gough Island is home to several million pairs of breeding Seabirds & that was clearly evident as we got closer to the island. By mid afternoon, everywhere we looked we could see Seabirds.
Yellow-nosed Albatross: Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross breed on Gough & the Tristan da Cunha Islands
Yellow-nosed Albatross: Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. The other subspecies using Clements taxonomy is Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross which breeds on various Subantarctic Islands in the Indian Ocean
Sooty Albatross: Adult
Tristan Wandering Albatross: Adult male. Clements regards this as a subspecies of Wandering Albatross. The plumage phases overlap with those of Snowy Albatross, albeit they tend to breed when they have less extensive white on the wings. This is a typical adult male
Tristan Wandering Albatross: Adult Female. Despite looking quick scruffy, this is typical for breeding age females
Tristan Wandering Albatross: Subadult. Given the overlap in plumages, the best way to separate Tristan Wandering Albatross from other subspecies is by location, so this is clearly a Tristan Wandering Albatross
Tristan Wandering Albatross: Subadult. Another view of the same individual
Tristan Wandering Albatross: Presumed subadult of another final individual. I'm guess this is a subadult, however, some adult females can show a smudgy breast & I've not got upperwing shots of this individual. Ageing is tricky on Wandering Albatrosses, but Flood & Fisher's North Atlantic Seabirds: Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels is the best I've seen on this subject of Tristan Wandering Albatrosses
Soft-plumaged Petrel: Part of the daily Pterodroma fix
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Atlantic Petrel: The other daily Pterodroma in this part of the cruise
Broad-billed Prion: This individual is quite easy to identify with a bill this broad
Broad-billed Prion: Close crop to show the bill shape
Broad-billed Prion: Another photo of the same individual
Broad-billed Pion: Another individual
Broad-billed Prion: Another individual
Broad-billed Prion: Underwing of another individual
Broad-billed Prion: A final individual. I can't find any photos of any of the Prions photographed today that look to be MacGillvray's Prions
Broad-billed Prion: Another view of the final individual
Great Shearwater
'White-bellied' Black-bellied Storm-petrel: I will come back to the identification of 'White bellied' Black-bellied Storm-petrel from White-bellied Storm-petrel in a future Post
'White-bellied' Black-bellied Storm-petrel: Another photo of the same individual
Brown Skua: Tristan Brown Skua. Clements regards Tristan Brown Skuas as a distinctive subspecies of Brown Skua. They are noticeably different in appearance from the dark Falklands Brown Skua subspecies
Brown Skua: Tristan Brown Skua. They only breed on Gough & the Tristan da Cunha Islands
Brown Skua: Tristan Brown Skua
By late afternoon, we were making our final approach to Gough Island & over the next hour the island got steadily larger. Not that it was easy to watch it getting larger as there were so many Prions around the Plancius, with a smaller number of other species. It was impossible to figure out overall numbers, but Prion numbers alone must have run into 6 figures. It's certainly the most impressive day I've every seen for numbers of Seabirds. The following morning most of the Prions had dispersed back out to sea: so presumably most left in the dark.
Seabirds of Gough Island: There is a Tristan Wandering Albatross, 7 Great Shearwaters, 2 Soft-plumaged Petrels & 4 Prions sp. in this photo: feeding & waiting for the relative safety of dusk to return to their burrows
Seabirds off Gough Island: There is an Atlantic Petrel, 2 Soft-plumaged Petrel & 38 Prion sp. in this photo
Seabirds of Gough Island: There is an Atlantic Petrel & 49 Prion sp. in this photo
First impressions of Gough Island: There were strong winds blowing around the island, similar to some of the strong katabatic winds that we experienced around South Georgia
Gough Island: It was been a mixture of sunny & overcast during the day, but the light had been reasonable. However, we were now surrounded by low, menacing clouds which added to the atmospheric conditions
Gough Island: A panoramic view of the island showing how localised the cloud was
Gough Island: An impressive sea stack
Gough Island
Gough Island sea stack
Given we were going to spend the night off Gough Island, the plan was for a slow cruise around part of the island to allow us to enjoy the Seabirds & views.
Gough Island: Close up of the right hand end of our view of the island
Gough Island: With all this weather, it's perhaps not surprising there was also a rainbow
A close up of the right hand corner of the island
The strength of the wind coming over the island is evident from the flag: The flag is starting to get tatty after all the weather it has experienced
Gough Island: What was clear was the there was a strong swell & the wind was whipping up the sea
Gough Island: It wasn't looking promising that we would be able to get a zodiac cruise in the morning
Gathering in the observation lounge for the Wildwings log in the evening: It was going to be a long log trying to figure out the numbers of Seabirds seen