HMS PROTECTOR arrived off Cooper Island located at the south-east end of South Georgia on the morning of 9 Feb 15. As per normal I headed to the focsle after my breakfast to see what was about. Unsurprisingly there were literally hundreds of seabirds around. The most numerous species was Macaroni Penguin. It was impossible to accurately count them but there were literally thousands of them. Gentoo Penguin, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Antarctic Prion, Black-browed Albatross and Cape Petrel were also present in large numbers. However, it was a distant Blue Whale that stole the show. Both Steve and I had seen what we believed to be a Blue Whale in the Pacific Ocean back in April 14. However, unlike on that occasion I had record images to confirm this particular sighting. As documented the blow of the Blue Whale was indeed very tall and narrow as shown in the image below, and quite distinctive in comparison to that of the Humpback and Fin Whale that were also present.
Throughout the first part of the morning PRTR patrolled a box off Cooper Island before the ship headed into the nearby Drygalski Fjord to measure on radar the extent of the Drygalski Glacier’s retreat caused by climate change. Throughout that period it was very apparent that at least three Blue Whales were actively feeding in the area. One particular animal showed brilliantly as it surfaced and passed down the port side of the ship as PRTR headed towards Drygalski Fjord. The yellowish colouring on its flanks caused by diatom algae colonizing the animal’s skin was extensive. The sound of each blow was incredible to hear as Steve and I witnessed the spectacle from the bridge roof. It was no wonder that the resulting ‘spout’ reached so high.
Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)