This time, we’re visiting two very different places. Macao was sponsored by my parents and Antarctica by the brilliant volunteers of Project Gutenberg. Thanks all!
174 Macao: The Bewitching Braid by Henrique de Senna Fernandes
I’m generally not a fan of love stories, and as far as this book is concerned, the development of plot was fairly predictable. But I enjoyed how the writer created the atmosphere in the different parts of the city. I had a craving for wonton soup and jiaozi several times during my reading experience.
175 Antarctica: The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910 – 1913 by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
This book was an odd one. A lot of it was excerpts from people’s diaries, like Scott, Shackelton or the author’s own and a huge part of that was ‘it was cold, it was windy, it was cold and windy’ (paraphrasing only slightly), the repetition of which made for rather dull reading. Having said that, I enjoyed the parts about the Adelie and Emperor penguins and thought the final chapter really touching (when they found their dead companions just a few miles from the next depot). The analysis of why so much had gone wrong was full of insights into the dangers of a polar journey and the necessity of planning for as many eventualities as possible.
The next places (hopefully): Kazakhstan (yes, still reading) and probably Grenada.
There are about 10 000 species of modern-day dinosaurs extant and this week’s number 151 is Macronectes giganteus which I saw while crossing the Drake Passage from Antarctica to South America. The birds are endangered by fishing, both long-line and trawl.
This Eudyptes chrysocome was breeding on West Point Island in the Falkland Islands in 2014. Seeing the colony was fantastic – a great mix of Rockhopper Penguins and Black-browed Albatrosses.
Rockhopper taxonomy is tricky. Some scientist distinguish between three species while others see three subspecies. However, all of them are in decline.
Souther Rockhoppers are classified as vulnerable on the Red List. The main threat is the climate crisis because the penguins need cold waters and the oceans are heating up. On top of that, oil pollution and hydrocarbon is a threat (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22735250/132664584#threats).
This flock of Chloephaga picta was strolling along a beach on Carcass Island, Falklands a handful of years back. The white one is the male, the others are females. The birds are monogamous and their numbers are in decline.
Diomedea exulans has one of the biggest wingspans of all flying birds, up to 3.5 meters. The Southern Royal Albatross can apparently be even larger. I saw this Wandering Albatross when crossing the Drake passage on my return from a trip to Antarctica.
All species of albatross are in danger, mostly because of fishing methods and plastic.
Here’s a recent account by Ben Lecomte who is swimming across the Pacific:
That was amazing to be in the water with four wild birds of that size just a few feet away from me. I got a fist-beck bump with two of them. Brian jumped in the water with a GoPro and started filming the when one of them went for a red piece of plastic and tried to eat it. Brian reached out and retrieved a small red plastic basket. A couple of minutes later I spotted two of them going after a white small plastic pouch. I quickly got to it, grabbed it and passed it on to Mark in the dinghy.
I can now better understand why so many albatrosses are found dead with their stomach full of plastic debris. A piece of plastic at the surface of the water stands out and easily get their attention. http://benlecomte.com/day-94-albatrosses-and-plastic/
Skua taxonomy is a wee bit confusing, but I think this is a Stercorarius antarcticus which I saw on King George Island on my trip to Antarctica a few years ago.
Skuas seem to have amazing cognitive abilities. Like crows and pigeons, they can recognize individual humans (doi: 10.1007/s10071-016-0970-9).
I saw this Spinus barbatus on Carcass Island. The species seems to be alright and one of the few lucky ones which isn’t threatened.