By Peter Ryan, onboard scientist, expert in general ornithology, seabird-fishery interactions, evolutionary ecology, marine debris, solid waste management, biology of oceanic islands.

Leg 1, Day 1

Day 1 was an atypical day for ACE, travelling through the tropical waters of the Agulhas Current. As a result, we saw quite a few species that are unlikely to be seen again until we return to the Cape in three months. In terms of numbers, most birds were Palearctic migrants* from the North Atlantic. The most abundant Southern Ocean species was the Great-winged Petrel, a rather confused species which breeds at Subantarctic Islands in winter, then spends the summer roasting in tropical waters.

Cory’s Shearwater* 178
Great-winged Petrel 45
Leach’s Storm Petrel* 24
White-chinned Petrel 7
Long-tailed Jaeger* 5
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 4
Spectacled Petrel 3
Black-browed Albatross 2
Grey Phalarope* 1
Brown Skua 1
Shy Albatross 1
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Wandering Albatross +
Great Shearwater +

Calm seas early on made it easy to spot cetaceans, with five rorquals seen before 9h00 (1 Bryde’s, 1 possible Fin and 3???). But the cetacean highlight came in the late afternoon, in the form of a pod of Gray’s Beaked Whales. Flying fish were abundant, and three large ? Yellowfin Tuna were nice to see. Plastic waste was fairly abundant by Southern Ocean standards: 13 items in 262 km of transects

Pic of the day – Gray’s Beaked Whale. Note bite scars from cookie-cutter sharks.