Thursday, August 7, 2008


After a night of fear with the anchor dragging and yawing to and fro across Cairnley Harbour we break away and are now entering a little inlet. We can see the bottom but are determined to get as far into the inlet and away from the wind as we can. Hooker’s sea lions circle us, diving down, looking at the narrowing gap between our keel and the seabed. Each time they come to the surface wide-eyed. We joke that they are trying to warn us. They are.

low tide
tea towels hang still
forty five degrees

After the drama we need a break on the island.

We struggle all morning up through the tough scrub of this sub-Antarctic island. About midday we emerge torn and weary onto the tundra of the upper island. It is soggy but progress is better as we traverse a swampy flatland towards the ridge. The freedom from scrub is exhilarating and we rejoice in the keen breeze. Once on the ridge we gain height to a vantage point and rest. Below, our yacht nestles in the bay. We now know it is in the capable hands of the resident sea lions. To the north of the ridge sleek sooty albatrosses soar and dive. We marvel at their aerobatics.

A little beyond our point we notice four of them on the ground. They are the light-mantled sooty albatross and they are gamming, that ritual gathering of mating and bonding. They call, preen and posture. Each bird has a crescent-moon, white, about it eyes. It is an amazing display, only rivalled by the beautiful high stepping dance of brolgas.

The two of us creep forward, making sure not to infringe their five metre personal space. We have entered paradise. They know we are there but choose to ignore us. The wind lifts the soft feathers of their plumage revealing the most sublime magenta colours—and it lifts tears from our lower eyelids. And it carries off their haunting call.

one albatross
steps forward
invites us to dance.

by Barry L Smith
Hamilton, New Zealand

1 comment:

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a wonderful experience and beautifully written!