Among Sub-Antarctic Islands


South Georgia is vital breeding home to some of the world’s greatest wildlife concentrations, including more than two million southern fur seals—95 percent of the world population; 300,000 enormous elephant seals—half that species’ world population; five million macaroni penguins and large colonies of king penguins crowding the beach at Salisbury Plain, also at St. Andrews Bayand nearby Bay of Isles; and 250,000 albatrosses, including almost half the world population of wandering albatrosses, which nest here and on nearby Albatross Island. With them are an estimated10 million other seabirds, especially petrels and prions, in underground burrows. Some 2,000 reindeer of two species are here, introduced by Norwegian whalers in 1909. Bird Island off the northwest tip is home to 50,000 penguin pairs, 30,000 albatross pairs, 700,000 nocturnal petrels, and 65 breeding fur seals (or one bird or seal for every 1.5 square yards or meters, making this small island one of the world’s richest wildlife sites). Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried here, his grave overlooking the sea.

South Orkney Islands (including Coronation Island) in the Weddell Sea—seldom visited because of heavy ice packs but with large nesting colonies of emperor penguins, also snow and cape petrels, skuas, prions, chinstrap penguins.

Iles Crozet are noted for bird life, including half the world’s breeding king penguins and millions of tasseled macaronis and rockhoppers.

Cape Royds in the Ross Sea is the world’s southernmost penguin colony with 4,000 Adelie pairs.

Heard and McDonald Islands have more than a million pairs of macaroni penguins. The largest nesting colony of this species is on Heard, with another million on the three small McDonalds, as well as gentoos, kings, rockhoppers. Visits require special permit from the Australian government.

Macquarie Island is a U.N. World Heritage Site halfway between Antarctica and Tasmania with huge breeding colonies: 100,000 seals, mostly elephant, and four million penguins, including some 400,000 king penguins and 850,000 royal penguins, which breed nowhere else, plus four albatross species. Visits carefully overseen by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

Shag Rocks near South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, with prions, wandering albatrosses and of course, shags (aka cormorants).

Frequently included on trips:

Falkland Islands, about 300 miles (500 km) east of South America, which can have high concentrations of seabirds, oystercatchers, and also steamer ducks along rocky shores, one million rockhopper penguin pairs, and black-browed albatrosses nesting on cliffs at West Point.

Auckland Islands, off New Zealand, with thousands of wandering albatross pairs, also 50,000 mollymawks (as smaller albatrosses are known, in this case the white-capped). Enderby Island has largest breeding population of rare solitary-nesting yellow-eyed penguins and also one of the world’s rarest sea lions, the Hooker’s, with about 6,000 present (unfortunately, 70 to 100 are killed annually in squid trawlers’ nets).

 Chinstraps, named for distinctive black neck feathers, often seen standing about on ice floes, like to forage among pack ice. Smaller than either gentoos or Adelies, they pick the highest, rockiest, most inaccessible nest sites, pulling themselves up flipper by flipper around the Peninsula and on islands south of the Antarctic Polar Front. An estimated five million of them nest on little-visited South Sandwich Islands.

Chinstraps, named for distinctive black neck feathers, often seen standing about on ice floes, like to forage among pack ice. Smaller than either gentoos or Adelies, they pick the highest, rockiest, most inaccessible nest sites, pulling themselves up flipper by flipper around the Peninsula and on islands south of the Antarctic Polar Front. An estimated five million of them nest on little-visited South Sandwich Islands.

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AMONG SUB-ANTARCTIC ISLANDS as well as...

South Georgia

South Orkney Islands

Iles Crozet

Cape Royds

Heard and Macdonald Islands

Macquarie Island

Shag Rocks

Falkland Islands

Auckland Islands

 

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