Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Albatross (Nov. 12)

The short version of today's update is that we were at sea all day and that we'll make our first landing in South Georgia in the morning. 
What I'd like to try to do is explain albatrosses to you. I've learned quite a lot about them in the past several days, and they're really special birds. 
As a birder, it's expected that I love birds, but quite often I find myself seeking the birds because it's something to be sought rather than because it's a bird. Albatrosses are very different. They instantly remind me of what only a bird can do -- fly. These giant birds soar on the wind and ride it in ways that seem to defy what's possible. They can ride the wind for hours on end without a single wingbeat.  The air and the the sea are their native element. When the winds blow and the seas rise, they take to the sky and make it their playground. Wheeling through a strong gale and driving rain only inches from the waves seems to be their idea of fun.  They hardly ever go to land, but when they do, they pick the wildest, most remote islands in the world and make their homes on the crags above the crashing waves. They don't land often, so they really only manage a controlled crash. Coming home to land is the only thing they don't do gracefully though. When mates see each other after an absence, they greet each other with a beautiful ritualized dance and carefully clean each other's feathers. It's amazing to watch. I feel privileged to be in the Southern Ocean that such amazing creatures call home. 


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