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    Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are launched out of the surf as they return to Steeple Jason Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, ISO 400
    Click photo to see high resolution version.

    In my last post, I briefly alluded to spending a very long day on Steeple Jason Island. The day started early with a 5:30 a.m. landing, and was supposed to end with the last zodiac ride back to the ship at 4:00 p.m. The day was a blustery one, but I spent many productive hours at the black-browed albatross colony. The wind gusts continued to increase as the afternoon wore on and I returned to the appointed landing spot to pack up my gear and await the zodiac. It was at that point that one of the onshore staff members informed the assembled expedition members that the landing spot would be relocated to a more sheltered location on the leeward side of the island.

    With all my gear tucked into my dry-bag, I undertook the short hike to the new landing spot, only to learn that the zodiacs could not be deployed from the ship due to the high winds. However, we were asked to stay ready to go at a moment’s notice should the winds subside enough to allow the pick-up to transpire. We hunkered down near the shore, hiding behind rocks and small hillocks to avoid the worst of the wind, which seemed to be getting stronger rather than weaker. We tried to be patient as we gazed toward the ship, searching for any sign that the zodiacs were being launched.

    To our dismay, after an hour or so of waiting, we noticed that the ship appeared to be motoring away from the shore out to deeper waters. It appeared we were being left behind! We could only guess that with no immediate chance to put the zodiacs in the water, it was easier and/or safer for the captain to station the ship further off shore. At this point some of us began to wonder if we might have to spend the night on the island, a rather unsettling proposition considering we lacked provisions and shelter.

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    Albatrosses in Love

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    A pair of black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) strengthen their pair bond through bill-fencing. These birds were photographed at the edge of the world's largest black-browed albatross colony on Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 560 mm, 1/800 sec at f/8, ISO 800

    My day started early as I boarded one of our ship’s zodiacs at 5:30 am to be ferried to Steeple Jason Island. Steeple Jason is a small island situated in the far northwest reaches of the Falkland Islands. It is the setting for the world’s largest black-browed albatross breeding colony, which recent estimates have pegged at 220,000 breeding pairs. As I stepped ashore that morning I had no idea that high winds would prevent any of the zodiacs from coming to retrieve me (and other members of our expedition) for another fifteen hours, but that is a story for another day.

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