Chirpoy Island and Urup Island‚?®Saturday 18 Aug, 2007
Our view of the Chirpoy Islands was of steep cliffs with a cover of green vegetation that looked in the distance like a lawn. Our zodiacs first took us to the north to see a sea lion rookery. A "pride" of about fifty sea lion in a group greeted us, bobbing up to stare at us, and then diving down to appear at a different spot, but all close to our zodiacs to the delight of the photographers. A steady roar and a slight smell provided a background. There were a few fur seals also around. Above the rookery could be seen some shacks used by Russian scientist studying the rookery.
The zodiacs then headed south along the coast to give us a good look at the myriad of sea birds, including horned puffins and tufted auklets. We also saw peregrine falcons dive bombing their target birds and some thick billed crows looking for their lunches of eggs or chicks. The small islands there were like pinnacles, with one thin stack of rock having a "hat" looking like it was wearing a beret. On one cliff was a long streak of light blue, perhaps copper leaking from the cliff face.
On return to the ship Wayne gave an interesting lecture on the pinnipeds - the seals and sea lions. We have seen three varieties in the course of our cruise: the harbor seal, the fur seal, and the Steller sea lion. Some other seals come down to the Kurils in the winter when the ice is here. Wayne pointed out the physical differences between the seals and the sea lions, for instance, the seals not having ears and sea lions having them, and the sea lions being able to waddle on their flippers while seals moved in an undulating manner. He noted the adaptability of the pinnipeds to deep diving and to sight both in and out of water.
In the afternoon our ship anchored off Natalie Bay on Urup Island. The view was of a series of glaciated valleys, Daria noting that the ice had melted some 18,000 years before. The rock cliffs consisted of pyrochastic ash mixed with bombs from the eruption of the now dormant volcanoes on the island. The zodiacs took us to a sandy beach with a stream on the right end of it. Wayne led a small party up the side of the valley through thick vegetation, their hike finally ending at the top when the birch woods proved too thick to traverse. The brave ones slid back down the hillside on their bottoms. The rest of the shore group wandered up and down the beach, some beachcombing. The stream, while shallow, had many small salmon swimming upstream to spawn. After a while the imaginative member of the staff decided to try to catch some. Cheli and Thomas charged after individual salmon, which proved too quick and elusive. The others tried to herd the salmon into an old net (unfortunately with a large hole in it). Once again the salmon proved too quick, perhaps too smart also, to be caught, and the whole party returned to the ship salmon-less.