Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cape Horn and Ushuaia

I am finishing up the last of my posts about my most recent trip to Antarctica in November 2007. I am starting with photos of a Wandering Albatross taken just south of Cape Horn. This individual was coming close as he worked his way up alongside and then wheeled away to come back at a different angle from behind the ship .

As we approached the cape from the south we passed the Cape Horn Memorial perched on a low headland near the cape. This sculpture by José Balcells is composed of two offset halves that, when viewed from the direction of the Drake Passage (or the opposite direction to the north), line up to form the outline of an albatross in the negative space between the composite plates.
This is the view of the monument from the south with the Chilean guard station on the right. Below is a closer photo from the north from this website which explains more about the monument.

This poem is inscribed in a marble plaque at the base of the sculpture:

I, the albatross that awaits
for you at the end of the

I, the forgotten soul of the
sailors lost that crossed
Cape Horn from all the seas
of the world.

But die they did not
in the fierce waves,
for today towards eternity
in my wings they soar
in the last crevice
of the Antarctic winds

Sara Vial
December 1992

Although designed to memorialize the sailors lost at sea in this treacherous part of the world's oceans, it is very fitting that the image used is an albatross because it now could also be a memorial to the destruction of the world's albatrosses. More here.

We arrived in Ushuaia later that evening and I made a quick call home to hear my family's voices again and a beer or two in honor of Captain Kruse's birthday. The next morning Mike Nolan and I headed out to look for a bird that I hoped to see in the short time available before boarding my flight north - the White-throated Caracara. This was a bird that I had missed in previous years but not for a lack of trying. The place that was advertised as the best spot to find them had changed and they were no longer being found there (but I looked) and I hadn't been able to track down exactly where the new spot was. Last year I came close after getting a taxi to the new location but I was unable to find any White-throated Caracaras there. This time was different. We observed at least 10 individuals this year.

Here it is. This was the best look I got at this bird. Below is a picture of a more typical view at this location.

The dump. There are 3 species of caracara in this photo; a number of White-throated Caracaras in the center and to the left; a few Southern Caracaras in the middle; and a number of smaller light brown Chimango Caracara's scattered throughout the image. There is also one Turkey Vulture, a couple of Chilean Skuas in the background, and many Kelp Gulls as well. This spot and species are also special in relation to this blog because last year while searching on the web for more information on the location of the new dump I found Clare Kines blog The House and other Arctic Musings, now one of my favorites. Clare had posted about his visit to this very dump looking for this bird too. We are a bit of a strange lot with visits to refuse pits at the end of the world looking for birds but there must be a few of us because both years the taxi drivers have known what we were asking for and didn't seem surprised and the main part of the dump is closed to entry because of past problems from too many birders getting in the way.

On our way back to the ship to get my stuff and head to the airport we stopped by the mouth of a small stream in a industrial area of town and found a number of birds along the shore there as well including much better looks at a White-throated Caracara. The other birds we found there were Flying Steamer Ducks, Crested Ducks, Kelp Gulls, Kelp Geese, and Dolphin Gulls.

Adult Dolphin Gull

Immature Dolphin Gull

For those of you interested in the locations I mentioned in this post here is a map of Ushuaia and the locations where I found the White-throated Caracara.

1 comment:

Clare said...

Ahh. Birding at the Dump. Memories. Very nice post as always, and thanks for the kind words. Now we just need to get you to the Arctic Bay dump for some birding.