Stowaways in Antarctica
We have a stowaway! Down in the corner of the empty plunge pool aboard the M/S Svetaeva was a lone sooty shearwater. Our resident bird expert climbed down for a bird intervention – after scooping the bird up he endured the sharp bill’s pecks and jabs as he scaled the ladder to the deck above. With a small crowd gathered he tossed the bird into the air from the edge of the ship deck and it caught the wind and was gone.
With land a day’s sail in either direction you might think that a ship in the Drake is a good resting place. However the hard deck of a ship is not the best place for a sea bird to rest and not the best platform for when they are ready to take flight. But the shearwater wasn’t our only bird passenger this trip. A cape petrel enjoyed the hospitality of our ornithologist’s cabin to get a warm up before it too was given back to the tailwinds of the ship.
Still another species found refuge aboard the ship for a short time. I was in line for the zodiacs ashore when I spotted a Wilson’s Storm Petrel on the floor of the deck. It was amazing to see this bird so up close in my hands. When you see this bird fly from a ship’s deck it looks like a sparrow but it is actually larger than a robin – it just shows how hard it is do judge the size of these birds with no real frame of reference. Tossing it aloft it didn’t catch the wind but glided down to the water’s surface – and then it seemed to walk on the water as it flitted away.
It just goes to show you never know what you will encounter on your journey across the Drake Passage and in Antarctica.