SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 13, 2016
The Wings of A Gannet
Anchored off Napier
Ship’s Heading & Speed
On the Hook (Anchored)
Sunny, clear, and cooler today
"In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we
understand and we will understand only what we are taught." -- Baba Dioum
Today was another "land day" for the students and crew of the Bobby C. We jumped off the ship at 0745 this morning and onto the waiting bus for a winding ride through the bucolic New Zealand countryside. A half hour later we landed at Cape Kidnapper's (yes, the name is related to a Captain Cook adventure), jumped on the back of a trailer, and were towed by a vintage Minnesota tractor 5 miles along the beach with spectacular views of the surrounding cliffs. Final destination: A colony of 20,000 nesting gannet birds. "Sweet As" to say the least.
A few fun facts about these spectacular, gorgeous gannet birds; this particular type is called an Australasian Gannet. They are members of the Booby family, and have an average lifespan of 25 years. And oh yeah, gannet pairs mate for life and return to the exact same nest every year, year after year. Each mating pair works together to hatch one chick each year. And then-and then-once the chick is 16 weeks old it will fly all by itself, entirely by instinct, to the east coast of Australia. This is the only time in their lives that gannets will complete this long journey to Australia-as newborns. Because of the risk involved in this long journey, only about 20% of all the gannet chicks will survive. The surviving chicks then return all grown-up to New Zealand 3-5 years later, and will start anew the cycle of choosing a mate for life, and hatching one chick a year. No returning home to stay with mom and dad after college for this species.
Today we were incredibly lucky to see numerous baby balls of fluff peaking out from underneath their parental unit's body when we reached the colony. The chicks were in various stages of just hatched, to big balls of fluff almost as big as their parents. Sweet as!
As I watched the hustle and bustle of the adult gannets flying to and fro their nests, I thought about how easy it can be to get wrapped up in the many minute details that command our attention every day, whether on shore or out at sea. By stopping each day to watch the wings of a gannet during flight, or to feel the wind blowing past the sails, I am reminded of why it is so important to conserve what we love.