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Friday, January 19, New Island, Falkland Islands
We arrived at New Island in the Falklands early on Friday morning. Debbie and I went up to the buffet breakfast in the Columbus Lounge for early coffee.
The Falkland Islands are low lying, rounded islands that are nearly devoid of trees. They are covered for the most part with grass. The Hanseatic dropped anchor in a sheltered harbor.
A few white ranch houses with red and green roofs could be seen on the island. The wreck of the Protector III, an old minesweeper that had been used for seal hunting, was grounded near the shore.
We bundled up in our parkas and headed down to the storage lockers on the Amundsen deck where we kept our wellies and life jackets. We switched from our shoes into our wellies. Although you tuck your pants inside the wellies, it is important to keep your outer, waterproof pants outside to prevent water from getting into the top of the boots when stepping into deep water.
We were directed down the gangway and a pair of deck hands assisted us into the Zodiac. The water was still and the ride to shore was reasonably smooth. The Zodiac scraped the sand next to the minesweeper wreck. The passengers disembarked from both sides at the front. The method involves sliding forward and then swinging both legs around to the rear, over the pontoon.
Visit the web site of Zodiac of North America.
We waded onto the sandy beach near a stone structure that was identified as Barnard's barn. Barnard had been an early settler in the Falkland Islands. Half of the roof of the barn was lying on the ground next to the barn. It had been blown off during storms in December. The other half of the roof was in the grass about a quarter of a mile away. Barrels were set up on the beach for us to put our life jackets in while we hiked to the rookery.
The expedition followed a primitive road up a gentle incline, across the island to the penguin rookery.
A single file of red-jacketed hikers followed each of the two tire ruts.
A flock of Upland Geese was grazing in the grass near the roof of Barnard's barn. We spotted a couple of feral rabbits also.
Environmental Research Unit, Falkland Islands background information about the Upland Goose.
The rookery was located in rocky cliffs above a narrow beach, about a mile from the landing on the other side of the island. It was populated by large numbers of Rockhopper Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags, nesting all mixed together.
Single male penguins advertised their availability with a loud calling display. They raised their beak skywards and flapped their outstretched wings as they sang their penguin song. Each performance lasted the better part of a minute. Often there were a few performers scattered around the rookery singing at the same time.
Hear the Rockhopper Penguins.
Rockhopper Penguins have a crest of yellow feathers sprouting from the sides of their heads and a set of spiky black feathers on the top. They have red eyes and an orange beak.
Environmental Research Unit, Falkland Islands background information about the Rockhopper Penguin.
Background information about the Rockhopper Penguin.
University of Michigan has a page describing Rockhopper Penguins.
Blue-Eyed Shag is another name for the King Cormorant. The Shags were black and white, and were marked very much like the Penguins. They have a bright blue eye-ring around their eyeball, from whence they derive their name.
Environmental Research Unit, Falkland Islands background information about the King Cormorant.
The penguins had to negotiate a rocky, penguin highway to get down to the water a hundred feet below the rookery. After feeding in the open ocean, the adult penguins climbed back up the rocky path, hopping up a few inches at a time with a belly full of fish to feed their chicks.
Penguin chicks cluster together in groups called creches while they wait for the adults to bring them food.
When an adult Rockhopper Penguin reached its chicks it identified them by calling to them and listening for their distinctive little penguin voices. The chicks would nuzzle the beak of the adult, prompting it to regurgitate the fish that it had caught. The chick would stick its head right into the open mouth of the adult to get its meal. Once the chick had gotten its fill, the adult would swallow back down what the chick hadn't taken.
This Rockhopper Penguin has been fitted with a radio transmitter to track its movements.
Black-browed Albatrosses circled overhead on the rising air currents above the cliffs. Their nests were concentrated on one side of the rookery.
Link to the Falklands Conservancy pages about the Black Browed Albatross.
Each Albatross had built a nest out of a mound of guano that was slightly larger in diameter than its downy, gray albatross chick. Rockhopper Penguins and Blue-Eyed Shags wandered freely throughout the Albatross rookery.
The Albatross chicks have oversized beaks and black stripes running around the sides of their face, so it looks like they are wearing beak masks.
Black Browed Albatross.
Environmental Research Unit, Falkland Islands background information about the Black Browed Albatross.
Black Browed Albatross.
There were several brown Falklands Skuas with white patches on their wings circling above the rookery.
Environmental Research Unit, Falkland Islands background information about the Falklands Skua.
Dad used a Nikon FA camera to take pictures at the New Island rookery.
We hiked back across the island to Barnard's Barn. The residents of New Island set up a table with souvenirs next to Barnards Barn. On the left side of the barn you can see art prints of whales that had been drawn by Kim Chater, a woman who lives on the island. I bought a stack of postcards to mail from Port Stanley and one of each of the two art prints. Kim signed and dated the prints for me.
We boarded the Zodiac next to the minesweeper wreck and returned to the Hanseatic.
The Hanseatic at anchor off New Island.
Map of the Falkland Islands
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