Passing Beneath Marion

14 Feb

Day 92

Noon Position: 47 18S  39 28E

Course/Speed: E6+

Wind: SWS 15-20

Sail: Full working jib

Bar: 1027

Sea: SW8, steep

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 50

Water Temp: 38

Miles last 24-hours: 169

Longitude Miles Made Good: 155

Miles since departure: 12,435

This morning at 8 o’clock we passed beneath Marion Island, the larger of two in the Prince Edward Island group. When I came into the pilot house early, it was evident that something had changed as bird numbers were way up, especially prions, of which there were so many one had to think in terms of flocks. At our closest we were 45 miles south of the island, so no land was visible. The day was murky; we would have had to be close-in to spy it in any case.

The increase in birdlife around us is explained by an excerpt from Wikipedia, generously supplied by David R Kelton and waiting in my inbox when I first logged on for the morning’s weather:

“At least twenty-nine different species of birds are thought to breed on the islands, and it is estimated the islands support upwards of 5 million breeding seabirds, and 8 million seabirds total. Five species of albatross are known to breed on the islands, including the wandering albatross, dark-mantled, light-mantled, Indian yellow-nosed and grey-headed albatross. The islands also host fourteen species of petrel, four species of prion, the Antarctic tern, and the brown skua, among others seabirds. Four penguin species are found, including king penguins, Eastern rockhoppers, gentoos and macaroni penguins.”

Those numbers seem fantastic for islands, the largest of which is barely six miles across, but breeding sea birds are not usually particular about square footage.

Some of the first surveys of sea birds on these and many of the Southern Ocean islands were conducted, not by government or a university, but by a private citizen named Gerry Clark, this in the late 80s and in a small boat he built himself.

“I love the sea. I love birds. I love adventure,” writes Gerry, “In what better way could I indulge myself in my latter years than to undertake an expedition in the great Southern Ocean,” an expedition called THE TOTORORE VOYAGE.

Gerry owned an apple farm in New Zealand, where he built his 33 foot TOTORORE and set out, at the age of 55, to establish a base-line of seabird populations, then unknown, on the little-explored, remote and practically inaccessible islands of the Southern Ocean. The story is harrowing and brave and includes two dismastings, severe boat icing, and many other survival situations. It must rate as one of the most daring small boat voyages ever to succeed.

I switched to the twins at noon, as wind has come more into the west, and spent much of the afternoon “tuning” them in an ever increasing wind. We race tonight in winds touching 30. Mo hums when she surfs down the short, steep swell. Feels right on the edge.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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