Day 21 |
Nov 01, 2008

Isla Pan De Azucar

By Claudia Roedel, Biologist/Dive Master

Co-ordinates: Lat 26° 40’ Lon 70° 57’

There was a light mist on the horizon as we lowered the Zodiacs for the last time this cruise, but as the sun warmed, the mist dissipated and the sky turned a bright blue. There was big swell on the windward side of the island, but in the lee side, it was nice and protected.

Most guests came this morning, and we departed for what turned out to be a very nice Zodiac tour. There was so much to see! Peruvian Pelicans were taking off, and flying in groups towards the sea. They glide very gracefully, just a few centimeters above the water surface, beating their wings every now and then. They are beautiful birds, quite large, and relatively colorful, as far as pelicans go. There were also two species of cormorants: Red Legged and Neotropical Cormorants, and just a few Boobies.

What amused us the most were the Humboldt Penguins. There were so many of them! It looked like breakfast time. Most were walking towards the shore, or just standing there, considering if they should go in or not. We could see that some had come from a long distance overland. A few were very dirty. When they finally jumped into the water, it was in a little group. Many times the group would stay in the shallows, and the penguins would behave like regular birds on a water puddle, wash and scrub their feathers with their flippers and feet.

On one rock there was a pair of South American Sea Lions. They were still shiny and sleek, having just emerged from the water, and posed very smartly for our cameras as we snapped photo after photo.

This was the first island where we saw kelp – a large, rather tough brown algae that clings to the rocks. We could see their thick stalks because the tide was rather low. In some areas of Chile, kelp is harvested. It is used for a number of commercial products, like Alginate, a carbohydrate used to thicken products such as ice cream, jelly, salad dressingand toothpaste!

We also had the good fortune of seeing a group of Marine Otters! There were two slightly larger than the third, and we guessed it was a family group. They were feeding, so they were harder to see than the pair we saw at Bahia Samanco, but every boat had at least a glimpse of them.

A dead penguin was found near the sea lions, a recent kill. For our group of lecturers, especially the biologists, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to examine these animals at close quarters. Normally we only see them at the distance, but now we could safely and legally handle it! We examined its feathers, and they do feel like fur. Robin Aiello took advantage of the situation to take close up photographs of the specialized barbed tongue, the highly specialized flippers, and the sturdy feet with long claws. Robin West, on the other hand, did not seem too thrilled to have a dead bird in his boat!

We were all very sad to head back to the ship at the end of the voyage, and many took advantage of the Grill, by the Jacuzzi. It is a lovely spot to have a light lunch, and at the same time do some bird watching.

We were rewarded by the sight of a few Gray Headed Albatrosses, gliding effortlessly over the waves, some Shearwaters, diving petrels and even Cape Petrels.

A very rewarding morning indeed!