Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A few more days ...

Snowy Wanderer
After four days of good progress, the weather has, as predicted, become contrary. We have bent our route a bit to the north to avoid two days of east winds. While this hasn't produced sailing winds in our favor, the resulting calms allow us to motor at a better speed than we could achieve directly into wind driven ocean waves. The higher speed more than makes up for the additional distance traveled.

It is cool and rainy. We have left the warmth and sunny skies of Australia far behind. So it seems we have lost something but we HAVE gained the evening airshow. For some reason, the seabirds congregate nearby as the day comes to a close. Unlike the birds further north, the albatrosses and their relatives feel no need to pester us with deck landings and their associated mess but seem content to just soar endlessly over the ocean swells.

The largest of them, the wandering albatross, nests on sub-Antarctic islands raising one chick every couple of years. The nesting pairs mate for life - as long as fifty years. When the chick is young, they take turns making week long forays into the ocean for food. As the chick grows large enough to defend itself from predatory birds, both parents head off to hunt bringing food back to their large fluffy chick who eagerly waits for them on a forlorn windy hillside.

It is difficult to appreciate the size of these birds with no well-understood reference in the sky or on the waves. An albatross's wings measure three and a half meters (11 1/2 feet) from tip to tip! The only clue to size is the illusionary slowness with which the albatross seems to glide compared with smaller birds. This is the same illusion that makes Boeing 747s and Airbus 380s appear to be descending to land much more slowly than smaller airplanes. They do not - and neither does the albatross fly particularly slowly. They regularly forage over 500 miles in a day.

At rest
The birds are such a treat to watch ... but oh so hard to capture in the camera lens!

At 11/30/2016 00:01 (utc) our position was 37°08.11'S 166°24.15'E

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