"Prepare to have your mind blown," said Nate, the cheerful assistant expedition leader, as he piloted our inflatable Zodiac boat toward the shore of West Point Island.
After 36 hours in gale-force winds and ship-rocking waves on our voyage from the tip of South America, Pamelia and I had reached the Falkland Islands, a British territory that is a breeding ground for 70 percent of the world's black-browed albatrosses and boasts five of the planet's 18 types of penguins. We had come to West Point Island—one of four Falklands locations we would explore over two days—to see thousands of pairs of nesting black-browed albatrosses and spiky-head-feathered rockhopper penguins.
As it turned out, we and our fellow Antarctic-bound voyagers on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov would, over those two days, see a whopping 36 other bird species as well, many with wonderfully descriptive names: dark-faced ground tyrants, austral thrushes, striated caracaras, long-tailed meadowlarks, tussock birds, Magellanic oystercatchers, Cobb's wrens, upland geese, kelp gulls, flightless Falklands steamer ducks, rock shags and more.
I'll let the photos and captions below tell the story of what we saw in our several hours on West Point Island.
After hours observing and photographing all this wildlife, we were happily tired and filled with wonder. And it was only lunchtime. We had a Zodiac to catch and three more stops to make in the Falklands, including one a few hours hence at the intriguingly named Carcass Island. —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood
Coming next: Carcass Island, the East Falklands, Of Rats and Wrens, and more of those 36 bird species