Weather: No wind, some low cloud, overcast; brightening to sunshine in afternoon.
Just before 8 am, we started our first Zodiac landing of the trip in very calm sea conditions. A couple of Commerson’s dolphins rode the bow wave of our Zodiacs to shore and circled the ship a few times – an excellent start to the day. Once landed on West Point Island, we admired the kelp geese and goslings in the beach area and then started off on a 1.2-mile hike across the island. We got good views back towards the ship as we climbed a hill clumped with gorse bushes, and caught glimpses of some of the Napier family’s sheep. A land-rover passed us on the track from time to time, providing a shuttle service over to the other side for those wishing to conserve their energy.
As we hiked across the rolling moorland, we caught sight of the striated caracara, black-crowned night heron and long-tailed meadowlark, which resulted in many pauses for photos.
On arrival at the other side of the island, we plunged down through narrow alleys of tall tussock grass (highways for penguins) towards the cliffs, and soon found ourselves on the edge of an enchanted area alive with elegant black-browed albatrosses and cute, crested rockhopper penguins. Many of the albatrosses were perched on chimney-shaped nests incubating eggs, which we occasionally got a chance to see as they stretched their wings, or shifted to a more comfortable position. In and out between the albatross nests, small rockhopper penguins waddled and hopped, pecking each other, trumpeted to the skies and frequently groomed their wet feathers. We spent a magical hour or so enjoying a peek into the lives of these beautiful creatures before returning along the path (either on foot, or by land-rover, depending on preference) to the ship for lunch.
After a nice lunch, the majority of guests disembarked again on Leopard Beach in Carcass Island at 2 pm, ready for the second hike of the day - a 1.6-mile stroll over verdant tussock grass, white, sandy beach and past one of the few substantial stands of trees in the Falkland Islands. We were greeted by a cluster of gentoo penguins heading seawards, and later passed many Magellanic penguin burrows. Chris wielded his scope to great effect, showing us the Cobb’s wren, ruddy-headed goose, Falkland flightless steamer duck and black-throated finch along the way. After a couple of hours, we descended towards the gorse-surrounded McGill farmhouse for a welcome mug of tea and amazing home-made cakes and biscuits. After a bit of sunbathing amidst the flowers of their back garden, we headed for the Zodiacs and back to the ship – a bumpy ride as the wind had picked up and created some swell. Some of us were delighted to pick up Peale’s dolphins en route.
We had time to change out of all our gear before meeting up in The Theatre for a Recap & Briefing session at 6.45 pm. Chris (Ornithologist) told us about the albatross, Rob (Naturalist) talked about dolphins, Dick (Naturalist) mentioned the absence of rats (and hence presence of many small birds) on Carcass Island and I (Historian) gave us a short pre-cap on the history of Stanley, tomorrow’s destination. The evening closed with a briefing by Robin (Expedition Leader) and then we adjourned to an enjoyable dinner.