Well been a bit choppy for the last 24 hours with 35 knot winds and seas starting to approach 3 meters but I think the worst of that has gone and we should have fair passage for the next three days which will see us to port.
Here we are then:- 29* 47′ N 126* 07′ E Wind 20knots North, Water depth 83 meters Seas 2.5+ meters temp 15*c
For no other reason that it just seemed to spring to mind here are three of my most memorable encounter with Albatross
The first ever Albatross I saw in flight was 40 years ago approaching The Cape of Good Hope on a passage from UK to the Persian Gulf.
It was just after dawn on a fairly blustery day and I was on the bridge wing as look out (as was normal in those days).
I noticed this massive seabird skimming just a couple of feet over the water and following the contours of the waves without seeming to move its wings.
It was by far the largest bird I had ever seen and it was mesmerising for its grace and its speed without appearing to move its wings apart from the feathers on the trailing edges and its tail.
It flew serenely and seemingly without effort.
They have an ethereal quality that gently demands your attention and it is easy to become entranced watching one in flight.
The Chief Mate told me it was a Wandering Albatross, which are known to travel fantastic distances and regularly circle the globe, although they are birds only of the southern hemisphere found mainly between the latitudes of 28 and 60 south.
As with many seabirds they are, in some superstitions, thought to be the souls of dead sailors however a simple mathematical calculation soon puts that myth to rest.
They are sadly in a decline caused solely by mans activities.
One reason is floating plastic garbage dumped at sea, or from land, that’s finds its way into, and blocks the birds digestive tracts.
The other is from long line fishing methods where, as scavengers, they dive on the squid and other baited hooks coming out the back of long line vessel when they are shooting their gear and get caught in the hook and are dragged below the waves and drown.
Of 21 species 19 are now endangered.
There is some more technical info here
The closest I have ever been to touching one was on a cargo ship in 1980. We had been to Buenos Aeries and a smaller port further south in Argentina (the name escapes me) and were heading around Cape Horn for Valparaiso in Chile .
I should add at this point that I have been round Cape Horn twice and it was flat calm the first time with a light breeze and steady drizzle and the second time was about a force 5 with slight seas and clear skies, basically a really nice day.
I would love to have a salty tale of “rounding the horn” sprinkled with phrases like “I’ve never known a night like it” and “The wind howled like a thousand banshees and we were all afear’d for our lives”, but both times we just a fairly pleasant passages in what can be very bad water.
Sorry about that.
I went out onto the bridge wing at about 3pm and leant on the dodger.
(The dodger is a curved plate on the forward edge of the bridge wing that deflects the wind up and over the lookout stood on the bridge wing.)
As I did so I had the shock of my life because I came eye to eye with an albatross that was soaring on the air current that forces itself up the front of a vessels accommodation when underway.
It was close enough for me to put my hand on his back, which I didn’t do as he would have freaked and flown off.
I spent a minute or two looking at him and he had a look at me between scanning the sea. I was thinking “Wow Oh Wow what amazing thing”. Although I don’t speak albatross he was probably thinking
“Hmm to big to eat but doesn’t seem to be a threat, I will keep my eye on him just in case”
The things that struck me was the size of his beak, it seemed huge and looked like it could take a finger or two of without effort and also he was so clean and in pristine condition. I had to force myself to overcome the urge to stroke him.
Apart from the tiniest of movements on the wing tips and tail feathers he was motionless suspended on the up draught and using these tiny movements to stay in the air stream. He was no more than 18 inches from the bridge wing
I am absolutely sure I was having a “gob open, staring in awe” moment and I felt ecstatic to be so close to such a magnificent creature.
I slowly made my way into the bridge and asked the Second Mate if he had seen him and he informed me that it had been there for about couple of hours earlier and then shot off and had something off the ocean and came back about an hour ago. He also said that they often hitched a lift on the updraft as it was less effort for them.
Using a tape along the top of the dodger we measured his wingspan at 3 meters 40 cms. Get a tape measure out and lay it down and it will give you some idea of the size.
He stayed with us on and off for a couple of days and then was gone.
I have one more “albatross” tale to tell although some may find this a bit cheesy, but at the time I thought “when else will I ever get the chance to do it” and I bet that many of you would try the same thing if the opportunity arose.
It was later the same year that I was transiting the Cape of Good Hope on another vessel on our way to Maputo (originally Larenzo Marks) in Mozambique and there was an albatross patrolling our wake for any juicy morsels we kicked up.
It was a rough day and the waves were about 4 or 5 meters and using the ‘close to the water glide’ when it would disappear from view behind a wave only to reappear up the back of the next one. It was almost mystical in it’s elegance.
There is an aerodynamic phenomenon called “ground effect” that albatross and other seabirds are masters off which allows them to stay close to the water and stay airborne with little or no effort.
While watching I suddenly had an idea and dashed into my cabin, grabbed my Sony Walkman, shoved in the correct tape forward wound to the correct track ad dashed back onto the deck .
I then cranked up the volume and watched the bird fly almost in perfect time to the music.The word that best describes the experience is “mesmerising”.
Here are some photos and the track to help better visualise what I saw.
Love and Peace