Pelagic pain and pleasure

Thankfully I managed to see some magnificent albatross before curling up in pain and knowing that I couldn’t move even if a blue whale was swimming around the boat with an albatross on its head.


Shy Albatross - Kim Wormald
Shy Albatross in flight
Canon 5D Mark III, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, focal length 100mm


Despite appearances the albatross in the image above doesn’t have a missing right foot, it is tucked under the ridge that can be seen across its tummy feathers. Shy Albatross are about 1 metre long with a wingspan of up to 2.6 metres. They are found in the waters off south-eastern Australia and can be identified by the diagnostic small black mark in their ‘armpits’, or should that be ‘wingpits’? Their underwings are white with narrow black edging, they have a white crown, a dark brow and a grey bill with a yellow tip. The upperwings and back of the Shy Albatross are dark.

I was ridiculously naive to believe that I would not suffer from sea-sickness but maybe the image above made the pelagic trip almost worth the agony.


Shy Albatross - Kim WormaldShy Albatross
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, focal length 275mm


Shy Albatross often follow fishing vessels, waiting for bait to be thrown overboard to attract fish. This bait, or berley, also attracts sea-going birds. The sea in the foreground of the image above is smooth from fish oil that has been thrown into the water.


Shy Albatross, shearwaters - Kim WormaldShy Albatross, shearwater species
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, focal length 235mm


Shy Albatross out-compete most other birds in the hunt for food. They have a loud, guttural call and I watched them fighting and biting each other to get to the fish scraps. The smaller shearwaters had to be very quick to grab any food for themselves. Shy Albatross eat fish, squid and crustaceans. They generally take prey from the surface but also make shallow dives and surface plunges along with occasional deeper dives up to 7.4m below the surface (Reference:

I was able to photograph a few other albatross species before collapsing onto the engine block in a pathetic heap. I’ll share images of Black-browed, Campbell, Yellow-nosed, Buller’s and Wandering Albatross in later posts.

Happy birding and remember anti-sea-sickness medication if heading out to sea, Kim



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28 comments to Pelagic pain and pleasure

  • Liz

    What incredible images!! I discovered your blog via the Australian Bird group on Facebook. I’m glad you were able to get these shots before seasickness hit. (I did a whale cruise last year but went prepared for seasickness just in case).

    I’m not sure if you are aware there is a blog link up called Wild Bird Wednesday run by Stewart Monckton. Birds from all over but many Aussies link up too.

    • lirralirra

      Hi Liz, welcome aboard! I’m glad you like the albatross images and that you weren’t unwell on your whale cruise. I do look at Stewart’s blog and was surprised that I don’t have a link to it. I’ve just written to him and hopefully a link will appear soon, many thanks for the reminder.

  • Lanno kidhead

    Ha ha re blue whale! Great pics

  • Carole King

    Beautiful Albatross photos Kim. I too have been visited by seasickness….a most unwelcome complaint. My experience was travelling on the boat back from Tasmania, years ago. I took pills on the way over and had no problem, so I thought I would test myself on the way back, boy did I fail that test, such a miserable feeling. I hope you are feeling OK now Kim and don’t forget the PILLS next time.

    • lirralirra

      Oh that would have been awful Carole. It sounds like you and I both had an overdose of optimism! I’m pleased I managed to get a few images before collapsing in a heap and I’m glad you like them.

  • Margot Capuano

    Just as well you had some great images to balance the terrible experience of succumbing to sea sickness which makes you completely helpless.

  • Elizabeth Shaw

    Been there done that, KIm. I have a 50% rate of sea sickness on pelagics, but I always take my Qwells, and keep doing so through the day. Amazingly as soon as you get back to land it evaporates! I say I’m adding to the burly. The suffering is worth it and as soon as the memory fades I’m looking for another trip to go on. Where was your trip from and who was it with?

    • lirralirra

      Only 50% with pills 🙁 I recovered pretty quickly too but hours later the computer was swimming and my head did whenever I closed my eyes for the next couple of days, quite amazing. The trip was out of Portland with Chris, it has write ups on the Birdlife Australia website.

  • Awesome shots of the Albatross! It is an awesome looking bird. Sorry you were seasick, I have been there before. 🙁

    Great post, have a happy weekend!

  • Ive never seen one of these birds, even though I live in a coastal town, great shots

    • lirralirra

      Shy Albatross do come close-ish to land sometimes but you’re more likely to see them on a pelagic trip – don’t forget the pills!

  • You got some great shots despite your discomfort. Looking forward to seeing more!

  • Very beautiful bird, I never see it ! what a luck Kim.

  • The image quality of the 5D is showing well in these photos, Kim. I can sympathise with on the sea sickness front; it is an awful feeling and so I only do one or two pelagics a year. Look forward to seeing the other images…

    • lirralirra

      I’m delighted with the 5D, I smile just thinking about it. You’re braver than me to do one or two pelagics a year, I hope I pluck up the courage to do another.

  • Tammo Kidhead

    The first photo is stunning! I am glad you got something beautiful out of that trip!

  • Beautiful work as usual Kim. Sea sickness is a horrible thing (been there done that). What a shame, maybe you should try some sea sick pills next time if you are game to go out again. Love the images and the quality of them.

    • lirralirra

      I definitely agree re pills, and the ‘if’ I’m game to try again! Sorry you’ve had a similar experience. So pleased you like the images.

  • I hear you on the sea sickness front. When I went to Antarctica one sad day it took four injections to stop me being vilely unwell. And it was worth it.
    And your wonderful, wonderful albatross image brings back so many memories. Thank you so much – I do appreciate what you went through and hope it passed off quickly.

    • lirralirra

      Oh EC you poor thing, but how awesome that you didn’t let it spoil such an amazing trip. I’m really glad you like the albatross image and that it brings back good memories

  • Lyn young

    Oh Kim, how awful to be struck down with such a rotten dose of seas sickness. Thank goodness you managed to capture your quota of fabulous images before waving the white flag. Your dedication, knowing that this might happen, shows you let no challenge keep you from your passion!

    • lirralirra

      Thanks Lyn. I didn’t understand that it could be as rotten as it was, and I’m not sure whether I’ll do it again unless it involves a helicopter.

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