Prince Olav Harbour & Prion Island

Mar 02, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

The day began in true expedition style, with a number of different options and no definite plan. Expedition Leader Shaun Powell was working hard to dodge some inclement weather and blustery winds. Plan B ended up being the right choice.

The morning brought strong westerlies, so National Geographic Orion sailed into Prince Olav Harbour, hoping the cliffs to the west of the bay would provide enough protection to conduct some operation off the ship. Captain Graser crept slowly in to the very back bay, wary that some uncharted rock might lurk below. Once in place, the winds continued to whip sheets of spray as the williwaws roared off the mountains. Gusts over 50 knots were recorded, so we hunkered down to wait it out.

By 10 a.m. the winds had abated a bit and the Zodiacs were launched. Some took the short hike up behind the old whaling station of Prince Olav Harbour, while most of the guests had a wild and windy Zodiac ride around the bay. The usual wildlife was along the shoreline, including a few elephant seals and king penguins.

The prize for the day was the afternoon landing at Prion Island, known as a breading spot for wandering albatross and many other sea birds. A unique feature of Prion Island is a long, wooden boardwalk that creates easy access to the very top of the island. Quite a few fur seals are always present to lead us up the boardwalk, but they are mostly pups who are more playful than obnoxious. Reaching the top, one finds a viewing platform close to where the magnificent wandering albatross come to land at their nesting sight. Standing on the platform feels like being at the control tower of an albatross airport, with huge birds soaring just above our heads. Some glide by, others approach with their landing gear (feet) lowered on short final.

In the pattern are skuas, giant petrels, light-mantled albatross, and a few South Georgia pipits work the tussock grass. We are lucky to have a windy day for this visit, as it seems everything with wings is in the air this afternoon!

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About the Author

Doug Gould

Expedition Leader

Travel and adventure were an integral part of Doug’s upbringing in a small town on the south shore of Long Island, New York. Growing up on the Great South Bay, his family claims Doug learned to sail before he learned to walk. Whether it was camping, sailing, birding, traveling across country or spending most of fifth grade living in Europe, Doug’s formative years left him with a love of wildlife, the outdoors, and a desire to keep moving. 

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