Dinosaur of the week: Brown Skua

 

brown skua

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).

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J’apprends français 13/30

dans l'Antarctique

Si on voyage dans l’Antarctique, c’est importante porter les vêtements chauds. J’adore mon impermeable bleu et mon chapeau multicolor. Les bottes en caoutchouc étaient très pratiques.

WorldBookProject – Island Hopping

WorldBookProject has taken me to many unexpected places, but this time I went to some extraordinary corners of the world. I had some kind of map with me almost all the time while reading these books. Quick overview: Guernsey is in the Channel (between France and Great Britain), the French Southern Lands are also known as the Crozet Islands and  Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Ocean south of the Indian Ocean, Heard Island is just around the corner from there, and Mauritius is in the Indian Ocean.

Many thanks to Aran and her friends from Slovakia who organised the Mauritius book for me.

129 Bailiwick of Guernsey: Diana Bachmann –  A Sound like Thunder

Generally, I like reading historical fiction, and a book set around 1930 to 1945 should make for a gripping/haunting read. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite deliver to my mind. I found the characters way too stereotypical and the plot too soap-opera-like. Having said that, I thought the author managed very well to convey the feeling of utter despair people on the island must have felt after the Allied landing in Normandy  when Guernsey was left in Nazi-German hands for another year. The book is the first part of a trilogy.

130 French Southern and Antarctic Lands: H.W. Tilman – Mischief among the penguins

Mischief, who would have thought, was the name of a sailing ship, and the author its skipper. Together with a handful of male companions (women were not allowed) they sailed from England to the Kerguelen islands and back. I learned a lot of sailing vocabulary, but I still don’t know really what a gybe is (only that it’s bad). I don’t like people who slaughter penguins, but the sailors’ sense of adventure was brilliant. And I unexpectedly met the skipper again in book 132.

131 Mauritius: Ramesh Ramdoyal – Tales from Mauritius 

The stories offered insights into the lives of the communities of fishermen and their families, and also some background on the island’s history, such as slavery. With most of them, you could always see an invisible finger telling you how to behave. It was rather moralising at times. However, a lot of the tales had an unexpected creepy twist or a funny bit, which reminded me somewhat of Roald Dahl’s stories. There’s a second part, More Tales from Mauritius, which I’ll read in good time.

132 Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands: Philip Temple – The Sea And The Snow: How we reached and climbed a volcano at the ends of the Earth

Like book 130, this was the account of an expedition, and as mentioned above, the skipper was the same, albeit on a different ship. This time, the blokes (again, no women) went to Heard Island to climb the local volcano. It was impressive to read how they dealt with all that Antarctic nature threw at them. Less impressed was I by their careless attitude towards the environment, something the author acknowledged in the 50th anniversary edition which I read. I really liked the openness and honesty of the writer – how people behaved and how they dealt with the psychological stress on top of the physical exhaustion. And I think this must have been the very first expedition I read about which contained descriptions of relieving yourself overboard or in freezing conditions on a mountain slope.

 

My 5th Continent – Brown Station

Dear Reader, we’ve made it to 64°53′43″S 62°52′15″W, welcome in Antarctica proper, continental, at Brown Station (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Station). The station is manned only during summer. Otherwise, it belongs to Gentoo penguins, Snowy Sheathbills, Kelp Gulls and Blue-eyed Shags.station

And to tourists, who slide down the hill. slidingThe view of the surrounding glaciers is magnificent. I loved the calm water and the mirror images. glacierice

It’s always good to know where you are in the world.

signsHere, we also came a bit more into contact with Blue-eyed shags, which were breeding perched precariously on the cliff side.blueeyed shagsblueeyed shags breeding

As ever, if you don’t know what to do, go and fetch a pebble.pebble hunt And since I have now ‘ticked’ five continents, I can think about the missing ones – North America and Australia & Oceania!

Mikkelsen Harbour on Trinity Island

Trinity Island is part of the Palmer Archipelago. It’s an important breeding area for shags, but we went there to see Gentoo penguins.ice First we had to negotiate a wet landing amongst the ice. Then there was a little hill to be climbed. lone gentooNot the one in the background. nesting areasGentoo penguins, like almost all other ones, build a nest which must be free of ice and water. For this, they need pebbles, and acquiring pebbles is an endless undertaking.on the nest pebble transportfemale gentooBoth males and females sit on the nest, but females have the dirty back from mating.spitting I have never seen penguins spitting before, but maybe someone annoyed someone else by stealing their pebble.Kelp gull Above all this mayhem, Kelp gulls keep a watchful eye for food opportunities. sunshineIt was yet another excellent landing.