Antarctic expedition: sea birds

By Mike Rossi 7 November 2013
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Down in the Antarctic, there are thousands of sea birds and you can’t help but become a twitcher.

AG designer Mike Rossi set sail on the AG Society expedition to
Antarctica. Along the way he saw dozens of unique sea bird species.

THE ROARING FORTIES AND furious fifties are so named because the winds passing through these latitudes define them.

They are responsible for whipping the vast Southern Ocean into wild, churning seas, with weather systems going virtually unimpeded by any landmass, save a few small subantarctic islands. Yet as our ship is rolled and tossed by wind and wave, hundreds of miles from the nearest land, we are treated to an incredible ongoing air show.

This extreme and seemingly hostile environment is the domain of thousands of seabirds which ride the ever-present winds with grace and splendour, scanning the undulating ocean surface for food. As our ship bobs about somewhat erratically, albatross, mollymawks and petrels glide, soar, duck and weave around it, often flying within millimetres of the constantly changing water surface – but never touching it.

They are a joy to observe – perfectly, aerodynamically engineered for riding the wind with effortless ease, rarely flapping their wings to conserve energy during months, or even years spent foraging at sea.

From the bridge we spot plenty of black-browed (Thalassarche melanophrys) and light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), and the occasional southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora), whose wingspan can reach an incredible three metres.

There are also numerous sightings of the Giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), the smaller cape petrel (Daption capense) and the lightning quick white-headed petrel (Pterodroma lessonii).

See more AG Antarctica expedition blogs.