The penguin colony
Fog… apparently a weather phenomenon shared by both Oslo airport and Crozet Island. But, those that wait are rewarded, and that was also the case for us. The fog disappeared and the helicopter took us in to the research station on land. Instead of rain it was now pouring down rain and blowing from all directions at once so we did not waste time getting to the colony of king penguins and elephant seals. The researchers from the station were pointing and explaining about the interesting wildlife and the ongoing research on the penguins. Unfortunately, French is not one of my strong suits, so I soon realized it was more fun just listening to the intense chatter of the penguins and the soft roars of the elephant seals.
Wind and (lots of) weather at Crozet
The Crozet Islands were first discovered in 1772 by the French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne. During the 1800s, the islands were used by seal and whale hunters, but now the entire area is a nature reserve. The only settlement is the research station “Alfred Faure”, which has been permanently manned since 1963. Crozet is the perfect place for those that don’t like sun or warm weather. The climate is classified as oceanic tundra, with a monthly average temperature of 7.9°C in summer and 2.9°C in winter. More than 2000 mm of rain falls each year, spread over 300 days. I addition, 100 km/h winds occur about 100 days per year.
The third day at Crozet there’s fantastic sunshine. Again, we are transported by helicopter onto the island and we soon set of to se an area where the albatross is currently busy preparing for the breeding season. When the young leave the nest they go one to spend about 9 years out at sea before returning to the island. De then spend about 2-3 years preparing for the breeding, and another year after that caring for the young, before they again set off to sea. The oldest recorded albatross was 63 years old. We now walk over to see the penguins one more time, before heading back to base for lunch, and after that there is even time for a little hiking trip up to the top of the nearby mountain. The island is volcanic and seems quite eroded where we are walking. Back at the helipad we see that the a group of 20-25 year olds are preparing to leave, after one year working as volunteers at the station. Among other things, they’ve been involved in monitoring the ecosystem on the island. An exiting alternative to the Norwegian “folkehøyskole”. Back on bord the research vessel Marion Dufresne the course is again sete ast towards Kerguelen Islands. Only three days left…
Translated by Anders L. Kolstad