Of the many creatures associated with the Antarctic region
are the unique species of bird life, including the albatrosses. Indeed, watching
the albatross soaring across the ocean, is a breathtaking sight. These feathered
creatures, with their huge wingspan (ranging up to over 3 metres across),
gliding across the ocean water with barely a flap to their wings, were once
considered a messenger bird, holding a special place in maritime lore and
superstition. Among sailors, the albatross is considered a harbinger of good
luck. However, to capture or kill the bird, whether deliberate or accidental, is
thought to be disastrous, bringing misfortune and woe to the ship and its crew,
and death or curse to the sailor who killed the albatross.
The most memorable
written work about the albatross is that of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This magnificent poem narrates the tale of the
Mariner who sets sail with his crew. The ship is suddenly hit by a terrible
storm and driven southward into a "rime" - a strange, icy patch of ocean...
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald...
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!
Having eventually been driven to the south pole, they were stranded until the
appearance of the Albatross...
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
The Antarctic region is home to a number of albatross species including the
Black-browed Albatross and the Southern Royal Albatross. Many albatrosses suffer
from loss of their food source such as the decline of the southern cuttlefish
population, illegal longline fishing and oil spills.
The Australian Antarctic
Division government website provides some information about the birds and other
Australian Government -
Australian Antarctic Division website lists
Australian tour operators for the Antarctic. For those planning to include
Macquarie Island World Heritage Area, information is available from the
Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service.
Many thanks to Jennifer Cooke for sharing the story and images of
the wonderful tour she went on with Aurora Expeditions to Antarctica.
Source: Images courtesy of Jennifer Cooke