South Atlantic

_RMA6337 In March 2015 I embarked on an adventure unlike anything I have done before. I boarded a private yacht as a guest photographer in Cape Town and soon after we started our journey north along the coast of Namibia. Here we spent a few days visiting some of the highlights of the region.

_RMA5796

Kolmannskoppe, Namibia – Nikon D810, 14-24mm, 1/6 sec, f/16 @ ISO 100

_DSC2845

Heaviside’s Dolphine of the coast of Lüderitz, Namibia. – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/2000 sec, f/7,1 @ ISO 320

_DSC2917

African Jackass Penguins near Halifax Island, Namibia – Nikon D4s, 400mm + TC20 III, 1/2000 sec, f/8 @ ISO 640

_DSC3263

African Black Oystercatchers near Lüderitz, Namibia – Nikon D4s, 400mm + TC20 III, 1/1250 sec, f/6,3 @ ISO 640

_DSC3402

Black-backed Jackal in the Namib Desert, Namibia – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/1600 sec, f/6,3 @ ISO 640

_DSC3626

Sand dunes at night, Namibia – Nikon D4s, 14-24mm, 25 sec, f/4 @ ISO 4000

_DSC3645

Greater Flamingos in Walvis Bay, Namibia – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/1250 sec, f/5,6 @ ISO 800

However, the real expedition started when we headed west into the vast South-Atlantic Ocean. After two days at sea we had a beautiful sunrise as we sailed towards the remote island of St. Helena. During the next three days we would explore the island both under water, along the rugged coast and in the green hills.

_RMA6812

Jamestown on St. Helena Island – Nikon D810, 24mm Tilt-Shift, 1/2000 sec, f/3,5 @ ISO 320

One of the highlights for me as a wildlife photographer was to be able to photograph the endemic, and very rare, St. Helena Plover or Wirebird. Its entire global population is found on this remote island and consists of about 400 birds. At one point I hade 10 birds around me – what a privilege!

_RMA6995

St. Helena Plover or Wirebird as it called locally, St. Helena – Nikon D810, 400mm + TC14 III, 1/800 sec, f/7,1 @ ISO 500

_RMA6546

Norwegian Rat is one of many introduced species on St. Helena – Nikon D810, 105mm, 1/320 sec, f/6,3 @ ISO 250

_DSC4319

Endemic Tree Fern on St. Helena – Nikon D810, 105mm, 1/800 sec, f/11 @ISO 800

_DSC4215

Lobelia on Dianas Peak on St. Helena – Nikon D4s, 70-200mm, 1/800 sec, f/8 @ ISO 800

_DSC4207

View towards Southwest Point on St. Helena – Nikon D4s, 70-200mm, 1/1250 sec, f/8 @ ISO 800

After another two days at sea we arrived at another volcanic rock in the middle of nowhere. Ascension Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, midway between Brazil and the African coast. The island is mainly inhabited by US and UK military, and some other specialized contractors. It is a tropical island, dominated by volcanic rock. Still there are some very unique animals found here. The Bottlenose Dolphins bow riding our ship on the way in gave us a brief introduction of what to expect.

_RMA7128

Bottlenose Dolphins on the bow, Ascension Island – Nikon D810, 70-200mm, 1/25 sec, f/8 @ ISO 160

One of the offshore islands, Boatswainbird Island, is home to thousands of seabirds, including the endemic Ascension Frigatebird. Also Boobies, Noddys and Tropicbird are common here. On land we found hundred thousands of Sooty Terns and also the endemic Landcrab!

_DSC4844

Black Noddy on Boatswainbird Island, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/1250 sec, f/5 @ ISO 800

_DSC5819

Sooty Tern, Ascension Island – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/2000 sec, f/4,5 @ ISO 500

_DSC5896

Landcrab on Green Mountain, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 105mm, 1/250 sec, f/5 @ ISO 1250

The highlight of Ascension was on the other hand, to spend the nights and mornings with the hundreds of Green Sea Turtles that nest on these beaches at this time of the year. Every year between December and June thousands of turtles migrate from the coast of Brazil and by what seems as pure luck, they arrive on the small volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean some 2000 km away. Long Beach is close to Georgetown and the most accessible beach for turtle watching and every night at this time of the year around 200 females come ashore to lay. The turtles are large animals, weighting as much as 250 kg, and based on the tracks they leave one might believe trucks have landed on the beach during the night. During the night we went out on the beach using red light torches not to disturb the arriving females. After digging a large pit she will lay over a 100 ping pong ball like eggs in it.  When finding a laying turtle we could approach slowly and watch as she dropped her precious load in the cool sand. It was a magic moment under the stars.

_DSC5027

Watching Turtles at night on Long Beach, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 14-24mm, 10 sec, f/3,5 @ ISO 2000

In the morning we were lucky to find a late female still laying after sunrise and I were able to follow her as she went through the process. While more and more people came down on the beach, and the other turtles were well on their way down to the ocean, she would lay her eggs without moving. When they were all down in the hole she started forming the base of the nest, a cocoon like structure around the inner chamber. After this she started throwing sand on top of the nest, moving inches forward while filling the nest with sand. After more then an hour of hard work she was happy and started the long journey back to the water. The sun was already up and the beach was warmer every minute. After another 15 minutes of hard work she finally arrived to the waters edge and the first refreshing wave rolled over her head. She looked up and took another few steps forward. The next wave would pick her up and send her gliding into the sea. Here she would rest during the day, sleep it of, and then return a few nights later to lay more eggs.

_DSC5256

Green Sea Turtle laying eggs under the stars, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 14-24mm, 20 sec, f/3,5 @ ISO 3200

_DSC5492

The last egg has been laid, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 24-70mm, 1/30 sec, f/5,6 @ ISO 800

_DSC5343

Covering the egg chamber, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 24-70mm, 1/40 sec, f/3,5 @ ISO 1250

_DSC5543

Green Sea Turtle at dawn, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/800 sec, f/5 @ ISO 400

_DSC5648

The first wave, Ascension- Nikon D4s, 400mm, 1/125 sec, f/5,6 @ ISO 100

In a season as many as 10.000 nest are made on Long Beach and in a few weeks time the majority of nest will start hatching and thousands of hatchlings will rush for the sea. However, only one out of a thousand hatchlings make it to adulthood, but if this is a female she will return to the same beach 20-40 years later to lay her own eggs on the same beach.

The first wave on the head must be like a refreshing bath.

Returning to the ocean, Ascension – Nikon D4s, 24-70mm, 1/50 sec, f/5,6 @ ISO 200

After Ascension we ventured further north and after four days of sailing we reached Cape Verde, where I disembarked for this time.

_DSC6122

Flying fish over the South Atlantic Ocean – Nikon D4s, 400mm + TC14 III, 1/30 sec, f/7,1 @ ISO 100

 

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: