Blog post

Unusual visitors on board

Published on
August 23, 2013

Although the ship for the WISKY expedition to the Antarctic was waiting several miles offshore, it still brought unusual visitors to the ship.

Photo: Dolphin Gull on the railing (Leucophaeus scoresbii)

Unusual visitors

Longer than intended, we are roaming the open waters of the Southern Ocean. On our way to South Georgia the decision was made to turn around and set course to the Falkland Islands. A crew member had an infection with which the risk was considered too great to move further away from potentially needed specialist medical help.

At the Falkland Islands he was brought ashore with helicopter. Even if Polarstern was waiting several miles offshore, this brought unusual visitors to the ship. An easy going Dolphin Gull (Leucophaeus scoresbii) came so close on the railing of the workdeck, that one could almost stroke it over the head.

Vultures at sea?

I was somewhat suspicious when South African colleague Albrecht Götz reported having seen a vulture flying over the ship. Vultures at sea? The Giant Petrels of the Southern Ocean are sometimes nicknamed ‘vultures of the sea’ because of the way they almost dig themselves into the internal parts of the dead Elephant Seals or whales that they scavenge on. But no, somewhat later Albrecht brought his laptop to show his pictures of that day, showing not only Giant Petrels, but indeed also a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) flying over the ship. This vulture species does live on the Falkands and apparently has no problems in flying for several kilometres over open sea to inspect Polarstern for a good meal! So, a true sea-vulture!

At the moment, we are once again on our way to South Georgia, and only after the work in that area, we will move south towards the eagerly awaited sea ice.

Jan Andries van Franeker