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 9 – December, 2016.

After steaming overnight from the Prince Edwards, we made good speed east towards the Crozets with a view to arriving off the western end of the archipelago tomorrow morning. The weather was kind, if cool, and despite being a good distance from the nearest islands, a good diversity of seabirds was observed during 11 hours of transects, including three prions (thanks to digital photography…).

Salvin’s Prion 100s Antarctic Prion 10s
Soft-plumaged Petrel 35 Black-bellied Storm Petrel 32
White-chinned Petrel 20 Wandering Albatross 15
Sooty Albatross 8 Kerguelen Petrel 8
White-headed Petrel 7 Grey-headed Albatross 5
Grey-backed Storm Petrel 4 Black-browed Albatross 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Alby 3 Northern Giant Petrel 3
Brown Skua 2 Light-mantled Albatross 2
Macaroni Penguin 2 Southern Royal Albatross 2
Slender-billed Prion 2 Southern Giant Petrel 1
Blue Petrel 1 Wilson’s Storm Petrel 1

We had high hopes of seeing some cetaceans in the relatively calm weather, but the only sighting was a tantalising series of small blows close to the ship that yielded no sighting of the animal responsible. The only marine mammal seen was a single fur seal. Kelps were fairly scarce, with only Bull Kelps seen. No litter was observed during standard transects, but Guiseppe claimed a small white fragment during a dedicated litter transect. Jasmine finally got to see a Grey-backed Storm Petrel at sea (as opposed to in a box after coming aboard at night). Her comment: “They really do have grey backs…”

At ~30 g the Grey-backed Storm Petrel is the smallest bird in the Southern Ocean