15 Nov 2014

15 Nov 14 - Unable To Land Again On Morane

We had spent the previous night offshore of the uninhabited French Polynesian Morane Island, after our excellent day ashore with the Tuamotu Sandpipers & other Seabirds. It had been a wetter exit from Morane in the late afternoon of the previous day. We had been used to wet landings & departures from the coral edge, with water up to our knees at least & sometimes closer to our waists. Fortunately, this wasn't living coral reef so we weren't damaging it. The wave action had turned the old coral into a solid rock beach, albeit one with a lot of sharp edges. When you are standing in the water waiting for the boat to find the right wave to come in on, then it was just luck that determined how wet you got. There was always a couple of the crew with us to ensure we got in & out of the boat & they were likely to be wetter than us, given they were on the coral edge for much longer than any of the passengers. With reef shoes & shorts it wasn't too bad & we dried out quickly in the warm weather or had a shower if back on the Braveheart. All the camera gear had been placed in dry bags that the crew moved separately, so the cameras were protected. The plan for the day was we would have a second landing on Morane. However, the swell had got up overnight & the Kiwi crew who were really confident of being able to get in under challenging circumstances, decided that it was too difficult for us to land. It was a pity, but we had enjoyed an excellent day ashore the previous day & seen all we had expected to see. With the landing off the plan, we were given the chance for a snorkel close to the island. Around half the passengers & some of the crew took the opportunity to get in the water just offshore from the reef. Unlike the Tenararo snorkel, there weren't any Green Turtles on this occasion, but I did see another Black-tipped Reef Shark. Black-tipped Reef Sharks are shorter than me & generally placid in open waters on reef edges, so it was good to see another one.
Back in seawatching mode: There were some homemade seats on the side & back of the top deck
Seating on the front deck was more ad-hoc: Kim, Allan, Tim & Martin (left to right)
After the snorkelling was over, the boat was recovered while we were getting showers, changing into dry clothes & reapplying sun tan lotion. The plan for the rest of the was head off to a sea mount about 20 nautical miles from Morane & try some chumming. Despite several hours of chumming, it was fairly quiet. However, I did see my first Black-winged Petrel & my second Polynesian Storm-petrel. Unfortunately, I stepped back to try & photograph the Polynesian Storm-petrel & found there was a gap in the home-made deck which my foot went through. I gashed my knee, but fortunately, it was only a bad graze. We had made our last landing of the trip & therefore, there would be no chance of it getting infected in a wet landing. There is a higher chance of infections in tropical waters, compared to the UK seas. The worst thing in the long term, was the lack of photos of the Polynesian Storm-petrel.
Steve Holloway, Richard Lowe & Geoff Jones on the back deck: My legs slipped through the narrow gap by the railing
There were around ten of the bulky Murphy's Petrels around Morane Island & the sea mount, as well as singles of Black-winged Petrel, Tahiti Petrel & Polynesian Storm-petrel.
Murphy's Petrel: They are a bulky Pterodroma Petrel with a steep forehead & pale throat
Murphy's Petrel
Murphy's Petrel: This individual has spotted a fish scrap from the chum
Black-winged Petrel: It looks like a fairly typical Pterodroma from above
Black-winged Petrel: Showing the distinctive underwing pattern. It is a pity it isn't in focus, but it's the only one I saw
Tahiti Petrel: This long-winged Petrel with its distinctive two-tone underbody pattern was easy to identify, but they never seemed to perform for the cameras
Tahiti Petrel
Before dusk, we checked out if the seas had moderated around Morane, but they hadn't. We spent the night off Morane, but the seas were as bad in the morning, so the crew decided it was time to start heading back towards the island of Mangareva. The motion from the seas were pretty bad for most of the day & I spent most of the day in my bunk. When I got on deck all I saw were a few Sooty Terns & White Terns.