After an uneventful six-day journey south in mainly calm seas, the fisheries research vessel R.S. Africana successfully landed a multi-disciplinary survey team ashore on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Island today. The landing was made in calm seas but sometimes strong winds by rigid inflatables (RIBs) at Cave Bay on the island’s south-east coast – the locality of the annexation of the island by South Africa over sixty years ago in January 1948.
Over the next six days the 10-person team, the first to visit the island since 2003, will survey all the breeding albatrosses and giant petrels (see earlier news item) on the island, as well as counting fur seals, surveying the distribution of alien plants and conducting botanical and entomological research.
The count to be made of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche carteri on nests with small chicks will be compared with that of 4870 pairs made in December 2001 (which resulted in an estimate of 7500 pairs, allowing for undercounting and nest failures, a figure then calculated as being 21% of the species’ world population). Ten satellite transmitters (PTTs) will be deployed to study the species’ distribution at sea while breeding, and attempts will be made to recapture some of the 500 brooding adults banded on the mollymawk breeding cliffs lining Albatross Valley in 2001.
Albatross Valley has been described as one of the major avian spectacles in the world. Over a thousand Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans nests can be visible from a single vantage point, representing in 2001 approximately 14% (1182 occupied nests) of the world’s annually-breeding population. As many Wanderer nests as possible will be checked for banded birds, likely to have come from adjacent Marion Island, as well as from the French Crozet Islands and farther afield from at-sea banding conducted in Australian waters.
Cooper, J. (Ed.). 2003. Seabirds and seals of the Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 25: 415-562. http://www.ajol.info/viewissue.php?jid=230&id=2860&ab=0.
Posted from Marion Island in the Southern Ocean by John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 December 2008.