Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands

Posted at 6:30 pm, January 2nd, 2004

Today rocked. I’m writing this while sitting (a bit precariously) on the bow as we depart Steeple Jason Island on our way across the Southern Atlantic to South Georgia Island. The weather was threatening early this morning, but it cleared up dramatically and we had an amazing, sunny day in which to visit the more than one hundred thousand black-browed albatrosses that inhabit Steeple Jason Island. The birds roost on the rocks above the shore, and after a hike of slightly over one mile we were able to sit in the grasses at the edge of their colony only a few feet away from the birds. There can’t be many more relaxing activities than sitting a few feet from an albatross colony that stretches across the landscape as the hours roll by.

The day began with the zodiac ride to the island, and I was the first one off the boat and on my way to the colony. I arrived at the colony well before everyone else, and not knowing exactly where to go I wandered down into the tussock grass at the wrong spot and soon ended up amongst tussocks taller than me. The easiest way to get around in these high grasses was to hop from the top of the tussocks, but on the occasions where I misjudged the firmness of the landing I would literally disappear and have to claw my way back up the six foot tall grasses. Later, after I had escaped from the tussocks, a caracaras took a fancy to my blue hat and attacked me for nearly a half hour, forcing me to dive to the ground with each of his passes. At one point I thought he had flown off, but moments later I was nearly knocked senseless when he slammed his talons into my head on a full-speed dive. While some of the other caracaras attacked me, none were so vicious, and one of the birds simply decided it would be easier to walk with me as I climbed down a hill, which he did for several hundred feet of elevation change.

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