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This month, photographer Rob Stimpson is travelling with One Ocean Expeditions on two trips to Antarctica. This is the second in a series of blogs on his travels through the southern part of the world en route to Antarctica.
I walk over the rise and the sound of birds is almost deafening. The view is stunning though – a steep vista overlooking the South Atlantic. Albatrosses swoop down from all directions. Albatross chicks scream for food and rockhopper penguins try to match the same decibel level. It seems like total chaos, but it’s just another day for these birds. The cameras click away as we witness one of nature’s great spectacles.
We said farewell to Ushuaia, Argentina a short while ago and are headed for the Falkland Islands, or Islas Malvinas as the Argentinians call them. Streaks of a red sunrise and thin-veiled cloud greet us as we approach our landing at West Point Island. One of the 400 islands that make up the Falklands, it is home to two people and 800 sheep – a very remote part of the world.
The photographers are overwhelmed with the opportunities to capture photos of the colony. The birds seem oblivious to us. Some let us get close, while others quickly take flight. Rockhopper penguin chicks are running all over, some covered in mud and guano. I am shooting with a 14-24 mm, then opt for my 80-400 mm, which provides close-ups and wide angle images. The time sweeps by and now it’s difficult to pull ourselves away.
Next, we head to a farmhouse owned by Thies and Kiki Matsen. A feast of sweets awaits. There’s nothing like a plethora of cakes, brownies and cookies to stem hunger. Nestled amongst the scotch broom, the only tree on the island, the house is surrounded by flowers. The air fills with the sweet smell of honeysuckle.
We now make our way to another island, but high winds play havoc with the planned afternoon landing. Instead, we head off to Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. As we travel, a group of dolphins beside the ship provides a dazzling display of their version of a synchronized swim.
Arriving at Port Stanley the next morning, we disembark and head for Gypsy Cove, a short hike about 12 kilometres out of town. Photo opportunities abound. Magellanic penguins, cormorants, turkey vultures and a night heron make their presence known. Our resident ornithologist Steve Bailey continues to amaze us. His ability to find birds and his knowledge of all bird species make him a crowd favourite. The signage on the trail is superb, giving the hiker and photographer a real sense of what we can expect.
The afternoon is spent photographing Port Stanley, having lunch at a local pub and taking in the museum. It is a quiet town of about 3,000 inhabitants, all fiercely proud of their British heritage.
I’m now headed to South Georgia, over 1,600 kilometres away.