• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 7:16pm

All quiet but for deadly birds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 July, 2009, 12:00am

We're still slogging our way across the Gulf of Alaska, alone except for the occasional whale and the constant company of seabirds. One of the most common birds looks like Northern fulmar - a bird that stays at sea, flying or swimming, for its entire life except during breeding season. It drinks seawater and sends out the salt through the tubes on its beak. But, most interestingly, it will puke on you if it is threatened. It can vomit stinking oil from its stomachs that is capable of killing other birds by destroying the water repellence of their feathers or simply destroying their buoyancy.

We are doing everything we can to avoid annoying the Northern fulmars flying around the boat.

Meanwhile, the trip is taking a bit longer than we had planned, and of course I use the excuse all sailors use: The wind was bad. Conditions have improved somewhat from when we began almost two weeks ago. We had hoped to make the 1,200km crossing in 10-12 days, but now we're looking at doing it in 14.

That is incredibly slow by modern standards. Driving this distance could easily be done in two to three days, while it is a flight of only a few hours. However, we are travelling by wind, carrying our home as well as all our food and water with us.

The crossing has been largely uneventful. We've seen bowhead whales on numerous occasions. Some of the visits have brought them within a boat length of us, offering a wave of their tales before they again swim off into the depths.

But, even so, the Gulf of Alaska seems incredibly empty. We did not see any other shipping traffic or planes for a week. So I've started looking down into the water, or at least checking the maps to find out what is below us.

The sea here is full of underwater mountains. Bowie Seamount, on the western edge of the gulf, rises to within 23 metres of the surface in waters that are 3,091 metres deep.

The Patton Seamounts, just south of Kodiak, Alaska, rise from a depth of 4,123 metres to only 168 metres beneath the sea - awesome mountains that no one actually ever gets to see.

If you have any questions, e-mail them to yp@scmp.com with 'postcards' in the subject field and we will forward them to Cameron. You can follow his voyage in his weekly log book in Young Post and on www.OpenPassage Expedition.com

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