After two calm days at sea, during which albatrosses and different kinds of petrels had been following our ship, we were ready to reach the Falklands and get ashore. Surrounded by flocks of albatrosses, we anchored in a sheltered bay off New Island in the warm light of a late afternoon. As this would be our first landing of a 19-day trip, we could not wait to get off. The next morning, our first zodiac experience took us past a wrecked ship to a wet landing near a small museum on New Island. Walking across the island, we saw several small groups of birds. As this was our first landing, some of us stopped to watch and take pictures - unaware of what laid ahead of us. Even before reaching the large breeding area, I was overwhelmed by the sound: different birds making singing different songs - and each one of them in their hundreds or perhaps even thousands. Moreover, I walked right into the colony, where the birds were at arms length.
I immediately fell for the rockhopper penguins: cute little fellows who seemed a tad on the fat side, which probably gave them an even more irresistible look. Black and white bodies, it is the yellow brow ending in long yellowish plumes above their bright red eye that attracts right away. Combined with the way they hop over rocks, made them the immediate stars of the show. Some were standing upright, and watching them for a while, revealed the egg they were breeding. Others were going around building nesting sites. What made this large nesting site of New Island interesting, was the way in which totally different species were all using the same area to breed. Right next to the clumsy rockhopper penguins were blue-eyed cormorants; a little further away, black-browed albatrosses. Flightless birds hopping around the masters of the sky: the contrast could not be bigger.
Just sitting on the ground, watching the continuous spectacle unfolding before our eyes, proved the best way to enjoy the birds. Seeing a rockhopper penguin make his way up the rocks, sticking his cute head out in a curious stare, comes a long way to make you laugh. But there was more to see; I moved a little closer to the edge of the rocks, closer to the black-browed albatrosses on their huge nests. They are obviously made for flying: while the masters of flight, they are utterly clumsy at walking or even landing. They depend on the wind; which is why they nest on these steep rocks; taking off basically means moving to the edge and spreading the enormous wings. But even albatrosses need the earth to breed; at this rookery, you come really close to seeing their gracious heads, and you can appreciate more than from a distance the sheer size of their bodies. Time had come to walk back to our zodiac landing site; I noted the yellow flowers along the coast, and realized they might be the last flowers we would see in a few weeks. Among the friendly looking path, whale bones were a grim reminder of the whaling that once took place from New Island. I paid a flash visit to the tiny museum, before catching a zodiac to our ship.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from New Island (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to New Island.
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