Pearls Around the White Continent Part III: Intruders in the Realm of the Sea Lions
In this installment, documentary filmmakers Deborah Shapiro and Rolf Bjelke continue their 22,500-nautical-mile circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean. Sailing the 40-foot steel ketch Northern Light in the Roaring 40s, Furious 50s, and Screaming 60s, Deborah and Rolf explore the beautiful and far-flung subantarctic islands strung like pearls around the bottom of our planet. Click here for previous installments.
The holding in Northeast Harbour is no better than it was in Perseverance Harbour, so we return there in case the weather holds long enough for us to find the other boardwalk. The scientists, who've been out removing bands from albatross, point the way along the sea lion-free shore to the start of the boardwalk, which stretches for a mile and a half. It winds around the hills near the station, then starts up toward the plateau. The view becomes stupendous, and the vegetation isn't to be believed. Most remarkable are the endemic plants called megaherbs, with flowers that form balls of intense color and big, corrugated leaves crinkled like potato chips; the structure increases the leaf's surface area to help it absorb more sunshine.
The end of the boardwalk marks the end of the territory we're allowed to visit. I've just barely finished sitting down when a royal albatross starts its running takeoff. By the time it reaches me, its wings are extended and flapping. The albatross is a big bird, with a wingspan measuring as much as 12 feet. As it passes, the wanderer turns its head to look at me, its wingtip almost brushing my nose. I'm taken by its sheer presence. The flyby is over in a flash. The memory of it, and this place, will last forever.
In an upcoming issue, Deborah and Rolf's epic voyage to the islands of the Southern Ocean continues as they sail to the South Shetland Islands. To read previous installments in this series, log on to the CW website (www.cruisingworld.com/1004pearls