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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Golden birds

Position 0630 16th 4443 05818 trip 102 DMG 101 - on target, just! A very rough calculation says it has taken us about 2 weeks longer to get to here that last time, corrected for stops in Lisbon and CT - result of bad guess up near the equator and getting stuck in the Agulhas. One lives and learns. AGW, about 40 sailing days from here to Hobart.

Middle watch:This one will just expand until the position report at 0700. There's been no berrimilla2 mail for a couple of days so if anyone is waiting breathless for a reply, I'm afraid it will have to wait until Steve gets back to his computer.

Ferals: the booties got an airing, if that's the right word, a couple of days ago and I can still hear the excited chatter from inside the foetids. Colonies of them cling to my socks and interbreed when I take the socks off and park them in the halyard bag next to my bunk. I have to speak to them severely when they try to get into my sleeping bag. It's coldish now down here, so we are just scaly rather that sweaty (hope you're not having breakfast) but it does mean that one doesn't have to recycle clothing quite so often.

Albatrosses - a couple of the really big ones, too hard to identify exactly but Snowy, Tristan or NZ (faint possibility may be large Southern Royal). Waited for ages this morning, Nik and trigger finger poised and finally got the shot of the bird with reflected sunlight - big, glowing, golden, gorgeous. I'm lost for metaphor or adjective. Much harder to get the same effect in pink at sunset because the bird has to be ahead of the boat to reflect and way more difficult to photograph. Another photo, mostly luck yesterday, of one of them transformed from tight, streamlined, aerodynamic curves and angles - rather as if it had been disassembled - coming in to land, feet hanging down, head up and awkward, wings semi folded, angle of attack nearly 90 degrees,, feathers awry in the airstream. Slight loss of dignity - white chinned petrels already parked in a gaggle scattering as this flapping discombobulation splotted into their midst.

And since writing that, the big one with the pinky orange collar is back - nothing like that collar anywhere in the book, though the bird could be any of the three big ones.

Under the red planet

We are now south of Tasmania. I've gone on enough about the night sky - tonight Mars actually looks red - much redder than Betelgueuse, which is just dull orange. Luminous ocean again. Wearing my arctic balaclava in the cockpit to keep the uninsulated shiny bits warm.

Yesterday - or was it today? Neurons in decline - an aircraft contrail crossed above us - heading west, perhaps on the great circle from Sydney or Perth to S. Africa. A bit of a surprise. Must be a wonderful view of Kerguelen and the other islands from 6 miles up but unusual to have a really clear day to see them.

No contact with Kerguelen yet. We are assuming that if we do arrive, they won't tell us to go away. We've exchanged SMS messages by satphone with Alessandro, now nearly 500 miles SE of us and we have spoken on the radio to the skipper of the NZ research vessel Kaharoa, about 400 miles NW, engaged in laying Argos buoys out here in the extreme boonies. A real Kiwi voice and we've established a schedule to talk each day. Nice.

And so far, suspiciously easy. Softish day, brilliant sunshine, a couple of new albatrosses. One was a Black Browed, medium sized, breeds in the Falklands where we saw lots in 2005. The other, I can't identify. A big one, grey head, white collar and seemed to have grey underparts, pinkish white bill which might have had a dark spot towards the end. Dark on top with the usual white patch between the wings and mottled shoulders. White flecks on or close to the primaries. While it was with us there was also a tiny storm petrel frolicking around us, so we had both extremes of the albatross family (the big one weighing in at 10 kilos or so, the Stormy at a few hundred grammes - sparrow sized). The usual graceful Prions and big gaggle of white chinned petrels.

Now windless and wallowing, expecting a NW change later and a bit of a blast tomorrow sometime.