Early autumn in the Weddell Sea 2

Subject: Early autumn in the Weddell Sea 2
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 14:55:32 +0200

                                EARLY AUTUMN IN THE WEDDELL SEA 2

The next station, at 64*S and 39*W , gave much the same picture. Although
we had lost the large flock of hangers-om Cape Petrels and Fulmars, numbers
soon built up again, and there were also many White-chinned Petrels and
even more whalebirds than the day before. Also, this became a
three-albatross day, as a lone adult Grey-headed Albatross joined the
Sooties and Black-brows in the late afternoon, only the second one of the
entire trip. Although large icebergs still are regularly encountered , we
seem to have lost the Snow Petrels completely; nor have we had any Giant
Petrels behind the ship for days.(Of course, after having written this, the
very next morning a lone adult white-headed Giant Petrel arrived!)

On Thursday morning we started a station at 4900m depth, at ca 63*40'S and
33*45'W. Nice weather, with the occasional snow flurry and a quite calm
sea. Two Chinstraps have come up the trawling ramp during the night, and
roost there, unconcerned by all the photographers and later even unfased by
the attempts by the crew to hose them down again; I think they are starting
to moult. At the same time, two Southern Right Whales crossed our course,
and all the birds left us to circle over their wake. And there are many
birds today: 10-15 Black-browed Albatrosses, 1 Light-mantled Sooty
Albatross, 1 Giant Petrel (not the same as yesterday), 1 White-chinned
Petrel, lots of Cape Pigeons and Fulmars, a few Antarctic Prions and
Wilson?s Storm Petrels and, for the first time in the Weddell Sea, also one
or two Black-bellied Petrels. A somewhat far away Pterodroma petrel may
well have been a Great-winged Petrel once more.
Later in the morning a small group of Humpback Whales cavorted round the
ship and regaled us with flipper-slapping, spyhopping and even a few
backwards rolls, before losing interest in the Polarstern. This became a
whale day anyway, as later first a third Right Whale surfaced near the ship
and in the late afternoon two ?Sei Whales let themselves be admired in the
rapidly worsening weather. Before that and quite suddenly, Blue Petrels had
finally appeared on the scene, the first ones for the entire cruise;  they
appeared with a vengeance too, as the rest of the day they were always
around, flying seemingly haphazardly ?in all directions at once?, as seems
to be a specialty for this species.
The last station in the Weddell Sea proper, at 63*S and 28*W (4500m) was a
bit less birdy, maybe because conditions were less suitable for the
sail-planes of the ocean: there was less wind. Blue Petrels now almost
dominate the scene, when we discard the habitual hangers-on, such as
Fulmars and Cape Petrels; they have suddenly become almost more common then
the whalebirds.
Tonight we steam north, to the S.Sandwich island area, and in the teeth of
an expected gale. That will be a new story!

Sea 10-17 March 2002
                                                                Wim Vader,
Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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