Showing posts with label Antarctica Cruise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antarctica Cruise. Show all posts

2 September 2018

Atlantic Odyssey 2018 - Part 7 To the Cape Verde Islands

Bulwer's Petrel - Bulweria bulwerii

On and around Ascension Island we were in warm, tropical waters and there were far fewer seabirds to be seen. 

Our fellow voyagers, not distracted by birds

As we approached the equator, there were still cetaceans in good numbers, and we had encounters with pods of Short-finned Pilot Whales.  All my SFPW shots look pretty same-ish, so here are three of them.

Short-finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala macrorynchus

Short-finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala macrorynchus

Short-finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala macrorynchus

Risso’s Dolphin’s were seen well, and their scratched, metallic appearance in clear blue water was memorable.

Risso's Dolphin - Grampus griseus

Risso's Dolphin - Grampus griseus

The sight of a Taiwanese Trawler in mid-Atlantic was a vivid reminder of the globalisation of man’s exploitation of the seas.

Not "flying the flag" ?
"Breaching" Sperm Whale - Physeter macrocephalus
Striped Dolphins - Stenella coeruleoalba

There were still a few seabirds to draw our attention, though.

Leach's Storm-petrel - Hydrobates leucorhoa

Arctic Tern - Sterna paradisaea
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - Hydrobates castro

Red-footed Booby - Sula sula

Not a seabird, obviously

On April 27th, only a couple of days from the end of our “Odyssey” we had a spectacular hour-long encounter with about 400 Spinner Dolphins. I found the 500mm too long to capture these well (a lousy workman blames his tools) but Jemi did a lot better with the 100-400mm zoom. These shots are hers.

Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Bulwer's Petrels were seen in single-figure numbers daily, it seemed as though they only came close to the boat at dawn and dusk.  We surprised a few sitting on the water, which then often gave close but brief views.

Bulwer's Petrel - Bulweria bulwerii

We had been seeing “Cory’s-type Shearwater” shearwaters distantly for several days, so it was nice to see them close and firmly-identified at last.

Cory's Shearwater - Calonectris diomedea borealis

Closely-related Cape Verde Shearwaters revealed themselves in due course, and we knew we were close to our destination.

Cape Verde Shearwater - Calonectris edwardsii

Cape Verde Shearwater - Calonectris edwardsii

Eventually we reached the port of Praia, on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde.

Tug boat

Cape Verde Swift - Apus alexandri

Port of Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde

Thirty-four days, 12,575 km sailed and memories to last a lifetime. 

Just a line seems not enough to thank Sebastian Arrebola (Expedition Leader) and the Oceanwide Expedition Team for their expertise and good humour throughout the voyage. 

The good companionship of our fellow passengers helped make the trip more enjoyable, too.

"The essential gear"

The end of the trip, and I can rest the hat, bins and camera on the ships's deck here before packing them away at last.

18 August 2018

Atlantic Odyssey 2018 - Part 6 Ascension Island

Ascension Island Frigatebird - Fregata aquila

Ascension Island - flag, frigatebird

We approached Ascension from the east, with the island’s first highlight being Boatswain Bird rocks.

The “Bo’sun Bird” is White-tailed Tropicbird, but the most obvious species present was Ascension Island Frigatebird, which wheeled over the rocks in their hundreds, evidence of a successful campaign by the RSPB to eliminate feral cats on Ascension in 2006.

Boatswain Island

White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus

White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus

In the water there were Common Bottlenose Dolphins and just above the surface, a few Band-rumped Storm-Petrels.

Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - Hydrobates castro

Ascension, seven degrees south of the equator, is basically the tip of a large volcano, now with 88 square kilometres above the sea and a human population of around 800 souls.  Unlike Tristan or St. Helena there are no actual local islanders, everyone seems to be there for work, which includes a large air base, and satellite monitoring facilities for for various space agencies. 

Official website :

The capital is Georgetown, a patchwork of some historical buildings divided by cinder tracks.

Georgetown, Ascension Island

Our first activity involved travelling in a convoy to the Sooty Tern colony at Mars Bay. We were guided by staff from the Ascension Island Conservation Department.  I think we kept ALL of them busy while we there.

Scorched landscape

Sooty Tern - Sterna fuscata

It was sobering to think that the Tern Colony is now endangered, due to an increase in rats since the cats were eliminated in 2006.

Sooty Tern - Sterna fuscata (nestling)

Sooty Tern - Sterna fuscata (juvenile)

Then on to Green Mountain, the highest point of the island, where an afforestation programme begun in the 1840s (involving Charles Darwin and Sir Joseph Hooker, no less) has produced some big trees and a rain-catching microclimate. 

"Green", I'd say

A researcher told us about the rare ferns and other plants found and propagated with the help of Kew Gardens (London).

We enjoyed a stroll around the mountain, with fine views of the island in every direction.


Two Boats township from Green Mountain

We passed an odd monument, half of an old-fashioned rowing boat and were told that it was the practice for local winners of sports trophies to display them there, at the road junction; - like this....

In the afternoon the island’s modest museum was opened for us and we  also walked around the old battlements overlooking Georgetown.

Georgetown, Ascension Island

There were photogenic waves at the beach…

In the evening we came ashore, and the expedition team did a grand job getting everyone off the zodiacs at the pier steps.  A nocturnal beach stroll to look at laying Green Turtles was a bit frustrating, with egg-laying going on in the dark, obviously. 

We returned before 05:00 (more exertions for the Expedition Team to haul us all ashore on the pier steps) and we gathered as discreetly as possible - supervised by Conservation Department staff - as the turtles came out of their egg-laying pits and headed back toward the ocean.  It was a great spot to be when the sun came up.

It was actually a lot darker than it looks here (ISO 4000)

Green Turtle - Celonia mydas

Ascension Island Frigatebird - Fregata aquila

Ascension was every bit as other-worldly as St Helena and Tristan.  The RAF is not currently flying from Ascension, it was said that the runway needed repair. No-one seemed to know when or if flights would be resumed. The US Air Force has a large presence at the airfield, but there are no commercial flights from the States either. The island’s only hotel, the Obsidian, is closed. Airlink, a South African Airline, have monthly flights from Ascension to St Helena as an extension of their weekly Johannesburg to St Helena service.

We departed via Boatswain Bird Island, and got another chance to brush up our Frigatebird (and other seabird) portfolios. 

Ascension Island Frigatebird - Fregata aquila

Ascension Island Frigatebird - Fregata aquila

White Tern - Gygis alba

Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster
Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster
Black Noddy - Anous minutus

Masked Booby - Sula dactylatra

Masked Booby - Sula dactylatra

Next stop, Cabo Verde !