On Wednesday 22 January 2014 the Longhair and I contributed (in a very small way, mind you) to the ongoing well being of the birdlife on Bird Island by hithching a ride with Adrian James (he of NSRI fame) on the Blue Pearl (owned by Morven Maclean of all round nice guy fame).
Our mission was to ferry 2 pax: an NMMU Honours student and an NMMU PHD student for a seven day stint on the island – it is hell in Africa but these two have chosen to do it!
We left just after 7:00 am and were back in time for lunch and a cold Fanta Brown at the ABYC. I confess that I still have to get used to travelling in a straight line and only having to posses two skills – steering and being able to use a throttle. But, it would have taken longer to sail there and we would have had to get our passengers to swim through shark infested waters to the island.
Now I have sailed around and flown over Bird Island but never set foot on it so this was a new experience that we were eagerly looking forward to. When sailing around we give the islands of Seal, Stag and Bird as well as Doddington Rock, West Rock and East Reef a wide berth before heading back for home. This time, though, we went in through the channel between Seal and Bird and onto the jetty.
On our way back we were lucky enough to get close to a flock of gannets plunging into a bait ball – scroll down after the video for images.
This is a sight that not many people get to see – the approach to Bird Island:
Vasco da Gama first named the Bird Island group of islands Ilhéus Châos (low or flat islands). In 1755, the East Indiaman Doddington was wrecked here while underway from Dover to India. Most of the passengers and crew perished, but a few managed to make it to the islands where they were marooned for seven months until one of their number, a carpenter, was able to make a boat for them. The survivors subsisted primarily on fish, birds and eggs until they were able to reach land. The ship was carrying a significant quantity of gold and silver, some of which was illegally salvaged in more recent times. Bird Island was named by the survivors as they left the island in their boat.
Bird Island has a lighthouse, erected in 1898 after a series of shipwrecks in the vicinity of the island. Doddington Rock, West rock and East Reef lie just South-West of the group of islands.
At 19 hectares (47 acres), Bird Island is the largest of the Algoa Bay islands. It is relatively flat and rises to 9 m (30 ft). Seal Island is 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres) in size and lies 360 m (1,180 ft) north of Bird Island. Stag Island is even smaller at 0.1 hectares (0.25 acre) and is 320 m (1,050 ft) north-west of Bird Island. “Much of the island group is covered by sparse growth of mixed vegetation.
Bird Island and St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay were proclaimed as part of Addo Elephant National Park in 2005. Bird Island is an important breeding place for marine bird species and supports the largest breeding colony of Cape gannets in the world as well as other birds such as African penguins and rare roseate terns. Seal Island supports a breeding colony of Cape fur seals. St. Croix Island, nearer to Port Elizabeth, is home to a large breeding colony of African penguins.
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/2014/01/bird-island-approaches/