By Alex Rogers
|© Natural Environment Research Council, U.K.|
Goldy lived on a range of underwater mountains or seamounts in the part of the Indian Ocean between South Africa and Madagascar and the wild and windy Antarctic. As with every year Goldy was rushing to the Great Orange Roughy Dance where all the roughies get together above a single mountain called Melville. There they dance amongst the gloomy peaks and spires of the seamount and release their eggs which float away on the strong ocean currents and grow into baby roughies. This has happened for thousands and may be millions of years and every year the roughies arrive in the middle of winter to dance and dance and dance. This year was the same as all the others. Goldy swam with his wriggly swim through the dark depths of the ocean, past hills and familiar rocks, over coral gardens and deep coral reefs finding his way by smell, and sight (for he could see well in the dark) and by who knows what. Soon he reached a steep cliff which he swam up and up finally bursting up over the top of a small table of rock over which heaved thousands and thousands of other wriggling orange roughies. The party was in full swing and Goldy charged into the dancing mass of roughies and happily danced and danced. Suddenly though, a terrible thing happened.
Out of the darkness a great glowing mouth came flying up and swoosh! Goldy and the other roughies suddenly found themselves swept up in a giant bag! They were crammed together and very frightened and within a second they were being hauled up out of the darkness into the pale blue light gasping and heaving, away from their beautiful seamount, for they had been caught in a net. Now Goldy knew this was very bad, because if a roughy comes up from the deep to fast their blood boils and they die, just like that! All the roughies struggled and thrashed and pulled this way and that. Somehow, more by luck than the efforts of the terrified roughies, the fishermen above pulled the net the wrong way. There was a giant RIIIPPPPPPP! The net tore open on a coral reef on one of the seamount peaks sending orange roughies, pieces of beautiful orange and pink coral everywhere. Goldy did what any orange roughy does when he is frightened – he swam straight down into the darkness as fast as his little wriggle could take him. He swam and swam and swam into the black waters until whack! Goldy smacked his head on a great big rock lying on the seabed. Seeing stars he swam off in a wiggly waggly corkscrew not knowing which way was up, down, left or right……..
When Goldy finally stopped and shook his head to get rid of the stars he realised he was lost. This was because Goldy, without realising it, had swam down a great big valley between the mountains. It was very cold, and Goldy could feel the water squeezing him he was so deep. Goldy felt the corners of his mouth point down. He was very sad because he was all alone and had lost all his friends. There was only one thing to do and that was to wriggle through the dark and try to find his way home.
Very soon Goldy became aware of a terrible smell in the water. If you or I smelt it, it would smell like rotten eggs. To Goldy it just smelt very, very bad and made his head go all funny. Soon he could make out a glow in the water ahead and as the water got smellier and smellier, it also started to get warmer and Goldy could hear a strange rumbling sound. How strange! Then he bumped his head against something.
“Oi! Watch out!”
“Oh – pardon me but who are you?”
A claw came out of the dark and pinched Goldy on the nose which made him shriek.
“None of your business.” Came the gruff reply.
“Don’t mind them” Came a rather slow and slimy voice.
“Those yeti crabs are just little bullies, barging and pushing their way in here like that all the time.”
“Who are you calling a bully scaly feet!”
“That is scaly foot to you if you don’t mind!”
Goldy screwed his eyes up tight and in the darkness he could just make out small white crabs with thick pincers jostling for position with giant snails whose feet were covered in black scales! The crabs were very strange because all of them were wearing little fur coats.
“You do look funny”
“Who are you calling funny fish face!”
“Where am I?”
One of the snails looked at Goldy.
“You are at the Dragon’s breath vents my little round friend.”
“Vents? What’s a vent?”
Goldy looked up and in the darkness could see in the glow a great tower of rock looming over him. It was purple and red and had beautiful bits of gold metal in it and out of the top came a great cloud of black smoke.
“Don’t go up there my friend, that smoke will cook you alive because it is very hot.”
Goldy had no intention of going up there, the smell was awful.
Just then a very, very bright light lit up the entire scene. Goldy could see clearly the great big pile of snails and crabs and elsewhere around the tower shrimps and great white fish. Then a giant yellow crab appeared out of the darkness with huge metal claws and loads of eyes.
Goldy was blinded by the bright lights. He was not going to wait around to see what happened. There was only one thing for it – swim!!!!!
Goldy swam and swam and swam, up and up and up out of the valley and again did not stop until he was so tired he could go no further.
There he was, again, in the dark, sad and very, very lonely. Goldy would never, ever find his friends again. Even worse he was now in another strange place. Then he saw something. In the darkness a light came on. It was a small yellow light. Then it went off again. That was strange thought Goldy. Then he saw another light, which also flashed on and then winked out. Then another, and another. Goldy was very curious. Often the shrimps and other small animals he ate also glowed in the dark. He was very hungry and also very curious, because this light was a strange yellow colour. Goldy swam out into the darkness to where the lights were flashing.
On. Off. On. Off. On. Off.
Goldy just dived out of the way as a black shark suddenly appeared out of nowhere and tried to bite him. Then another came and chased Goldy who immediately dived to the seabed as orange roughy tend to do when frightened. As the shark swam past he noticed it had a light under its tail right in front of its bottom! Goldy had seen a lot of lights which meant A LOT OF SHARKS, lantern sharks in fact. He immediately swam very quickly away from the lights but then got caught in a strong current which whooshed him up a tall and very thin mountain which was, in fact, a volcano. Goldy tumbled head over tail and tail over head as he went before someone suddenly caught hold of him by his fin.
“’ang on mate.” Said the voice. “You’ll get hurt if you go tumbling into all that coral.”
Goldy opened his eyes and as they focused in the dim light he realised he was sitting in a fantastic coral garden. Below him were beautiful white and pink bushes of coral among which were growing great big purple and yellow treelike seafans. On the sea fans were bright red and bright purple star-like creatures with feathery arms called crinoids. Little pink crabs waved from huge vase-like sponges which you or I could happily have sat in. Orange lobsters crawled around amongst the corals and in and out of little caves. There was life and movement everywhere. Goldy finally realised he was still being held onto and stared into a strange face, great yellow eyes, a wrinkly nose and undulating fins above and below.
“Who are you.”
“I’m Orlando Oreo and I might ask the same to you”
“I’m Goldy and I’m very lost.”
And with that the lonely orange roughy began to cry, explaining what had happened and that he had lost all his friends.
Orlando looked a bit embarrassed but then suddenly smiled.
“You’re an orange roughy! I know where your mates hang out! They gather here for a big dance every year and they’re due here in about two days time. Just hang out with me and we can go and find them when they get here. The Dance is at the top of this little volcano.”
Goldy couldn’t believe his fishy ears. But this could not be where he lived, it looked completely different. May be these were orange roughy but surely they were not the ones he knew, not his friends. Still, just to be with other roughy would be fantastic for now and maybe, just maybe they would know where his seamount was.
Goldy swam around with Orlando for two days staring in disbelief at the wonderful flowery coral reef on the volcano. Then Orlando took him to the top of the mountain. Sure enough, out of the dim blue light little round red bodies came wriggling. Goldy shouted for joy and immediately started to dance with the orange roughy that were turning up by the dozen. And do you know what, he met many of his friends there that night because they too had swam away from their old seamount in fright and had also found their way by fin and scale to the little volcano which the fishermen knew nothing about. From that day to this Goldy and all his friends meet for one night every year on the volcano and they dance and dance all night long.
By Alex Rogers
Wind Weaver was a black-browed albatross from South Georgia. He was extremely handsome, with a white chest, slate black wings and a bright yellow beak with a pink tip. Most handsome of all though were his black eyebrows, which were blacker and shinier than any other black-browed albatross. He was also very clever and very agile. He could wheel and whirl behind a ship, skim over the waves and plunge into the water to catch the quickest fish, krill or squid. However, Wind Weaver was also famous for something else, he was by far the naughtiest albatross in the whole wide world…..
Just for fun Wind Weaver would sneak up on the big wandering albatrosses, and suddenly jump in front of their beaks and fly around and around their heads until they got very dizzy and fell in the sea with a big “plop”! They would be very, very cross and as they surfaced completely soaked they would shake their wing tips at Wind Weaver and shout at him. Wind Weaver would fly away laughing!
Instead of hunting his own food Wind Weaver would often wait until he saw another bird dive into the sea and when it surfaced he would rush down and snatch the fish or squid from its beak before it had time to shake the seawater from its eyes. All they would see would be two pink feet and a white feathery bottom flying away from them as they furiously shouted at the thief. They would shout and scream but Wind Weaver would carry on flying laughing as he went.
Wind Weaver would often steal the stones that gentoo penguins and other penguins used to make their nests. He would then watch as the upset penguin would steal a replacement stone from another nest and then the next penguin steal another stone from the next nest and so on until the entire rookery was in uproar. How naughty was that! The penguins would eventually notice Wind Weaver laughing his head off nearby and would waddle after him very crossly. Wind Weaver would fly away, laughing as he went, knowing the penguins could not catch him.
Sometimes when the sperm whales were swimming or resting on the surface of the waters around South Georgia, especially on the few calm days of the year when the sun shone and the air was frosty and bright, Wind Weaver would land on the whales and have a good preen. Eventually the pattering of webbed feet would wake the whales up. They were very upset that someone was standing around on their backs and even more upset when they realised who it was and that the dastardly albatross had pooed on them! The Sperm whales would thrash and slap their tails before diving in a fury and Wind Weaver would hop off and fly away laughing!
Perhaps the naughtiest thing that Wind Weaver did was to pick up bits of rubbish he found on the sea shore, fly up and drop them on unsuspecting elephant seals wallowing and sleeping in big stinky mud wallows around the bays of South Georgia, or perhaps even on the head of a fur seal out swimming in the sea. The seals would bark with fright and then, when they realised what had happened, wave their flippers at Wind Weaver angrily, who would fly away laughing.
What a naughty albatross. But both you and I know what happens to bad albatrosses. One day they get their come-uppence.
For Wind Weaver it was a day when he was enjoying himself by dropping flotsam on unsuspecting seals, birds and penguins. He was stalking along the stony shore looking for a choice piece of rubbish when he spotted something shiny and metal, perfect for annoying an elephant seal. Without thinking he stabbed with his beak and got a horrible surprise. Wrapped around the tip of his beautiful yellow and pink beak was a metal ring attached to a tab, the ring pull of a tin can (which of course Wind Weaver did not know).
First he tried to scrape it off on a rock.
The he tried pulling it off with his foot.
The ring pull would not move…….
He shook his head in the waves and tried diving and soaring and then he tried plunging into the ocean which was not easy while only being able to breathe in through his nostrils and then hold his breath.
The ring pull still could not be moved.
What was Wind Weaver to do? If he couldn’t open his beak he would not be able to steal fish, or krill or squid. First he would get hungry, then he would get cold and then, one day, he would be found lying upside down on the beach with his legs in the air, dead!
There was nothing else to do. Wind Weaver would have to go and ask for help.
First he went to find one of the wandering albatrosses. They were strong and wise and would easily be able to pull this silly ring off of his beak. Wind Weaver flew across to Bird Island where he found a large albatross sitting on an egg. The wandering albatross eyed him very suspiciously when he landed for she knew exactly who he was. It was very difficult to talk but Wind Weaver asked in a very muffled voice while shaking his beak around:
“Can you pull this silly ring off my beak?”
The wandering albatross raised her eyebrows and then smiled with delight.
“Why Wind Weaver, it was you who knocked me into the sea the other day. I most certainly will not, at least until you apologise.”
If there was one thing Wind Weaver hated it was saying sorry…..
He flew off in a big huff but then wondered what he was to do.
Next he flew out to sea and found a group of white-chinned petrels sitting on the water. He landed next to them and paddled up. The white-chinned petrels eyed him suspiciously for they knew exactly who he was.
“Can you pull this silly human ring thing off my beak” he managed with a squawky voice.
The white-chinned petrels laughed at him and then pecked him until he flew away.
My goodness though Wind Weaver, perhaps I should not have been so unkind to everybody. Now I’m in real trouble. May be I’ll try the sperm whale, I don’t think they ever really knew who was sitting on their backs….
Wind Weaver finally spotted the great shiny back of a sperm whale just off Grytviken Bay on the north coast of South Georgia. He flew down, but unknown to him the sperm whale was a whiley old whale who had been around for a long time and upon whom Wind Weaver had landed more than a few times. As Wind Weaver came in and back flapped with his wings to make a landing the whale suddenly dipped his head, flung up his tail and swatted Wind Weaver like a ping pong ball. Wind Weaver tumbled like a crumpled up paper bag across the bay and squelch into the wallow of the elephant seals who immediately woke up at the disturbance. Quickly realising who it was they galumphed towards Wind Weaver intent on squashing him and turning him into a fossil before he sorted his up from his down. Luckily for Wind Weaver a human happened to be walking past and ran towards the seals shouting and scared them off. The person, dressed in a bright red coat picked him up. Wind Weaver was seeing stars and so did not realise that he had been rescued and tried to peck the rude person but he was seeing not just double but probably treble and quadruple. Before he could say Squawrk he was stuffed in a sack.
When Wind Weaver woke up again he was inside a strange cave with bright white lights. A human was holding his wings firmly to his back whilst another carefully tried to pull the ring off his beak with a long silver pincer. Wind Weaver kept very, very still.
The ring fell off. But before the humans let him go they put another ring on his leg and then took him outside and flung him into the air. Wind Weaver was very frightened and flew away as quickly as possible up onto the cliffs where he tried to pull off the new ring around his leg. It would not budge and from that day to this Wind Weaver keeps his ring and it reminds him of his terrible ordeal and how it does not pay to be mean to everyone. Soon after the terrible incident Wind Weaver apologised to all the animals he had upset and now he is the best of friends with all of them, even the grumpy old sperm whale. Everyone now considers Wind Weaver the nicest, most polite albatross in the whole South Atlantic Ocean, most of the time……….
Wind Weaver, the (ex) naughtiest albatross in the world!
The Wandering Albatross – A story for my daughters
By Alex Rogers
Cloud hatched on Bird Island just off mountainous South Georgia in the wild reaches of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. He chipped his way out of his egg after many hours and crawled out onto his grassy nest in the cold fog and misty rain at the end of February. His parents, Steel Wing, an albatross of more than 15 years old and his mother, Wave Rider, took turns to guard him at first, one remaining by the nest and the other hunting the stormy waters around South Georgia for fish and squid. Cloud rapidly grew fat on a rich oily fish soup regurgitated to him by his Mother and Father. It was often cold on the nest, the wind battering the island and rain lashing the grass flat. For much of the time Cloud slept and grew and grew and slept, protected by his thick coat of fluffy down and warmed by the rich food that the waters around South Georgia could provide. The winter came and it got colder. One day Cloud woke up and found he was surrounded by snow which had caked his head and back but he shook them off and waited contentedly for one of his parents to arrive which soon happened. This is how Cloud lived for a couple of hundred days. As he grew larger and larger he felt his wings starting to strengthen and he would stretch them out and flap them. He could not believe how long they were! Soon he would be flying like his Mother and Father. He also lost all his down which made him feel ill and very miserable although underneath he found he had grown real feathers of which he was very proud. One morning there was a gust of wind and he found he was lifted off the ground but he was too frightened to leave his comfortable nest. The day could not be far away though.
Steel Wing landed next to Cloud a few days later and nudged him with his beak. Cloud knew it was time to leave his nest and join his brothers and sisters on the great west wind. Cloud stretched his wings and ran on his legs before lifting them. A gust of wind snatched him up into the air and Cloud glided down the grassy slopes of Bird Island and then up and over the ocean. The grey sea heaved beneath him and the wind blew past his face. Cloud could feel it lifting him and soon also found he could soar and swoop just by angling his long wings this way and that. Other birds flew around him, the faster more agile black-browed albatrosses, the black and white mottled pintado petrels and the powerful beating of wings and side-long glances of the evil brown skuas. Cloud had been very afraid of these when he was small on his nest but now they kept their distance because he was much bigger than they were. Cloud wheeled around and realised his father had gone. He searched for hours but could not find Steel Wing or his mother, Wave Rider. It was time to go, time to leave to fly the Endless Ocean that runs around the world. Cloud took one final look at the mountains and cliffs of South Georgia before swooping low over the waves, gliding between white crests of water, first this way and then that out towards the horizon.
|Steel wing, Cloud's Daddy|
For many months Cloud flew across the Endless Ocean, resting by night on the storm-tossed waters. He flew eastwards towards the rising of the sun, catching fish and squid as he went. There were always other birds from strange places. Small blue and white prions darting in and out of the waves. Tiny black storm petrels dancing on the wave tops snatching the tiny animals from the water’s surface. White chinned petrels, all black apart from a tiny white patch under their chins and other albatrosses. The light-mantled sooty albatrosses were very handsome with their pale grey bodies, black wings and a white stripe around their eyes. The boisterous black-browed albatrosses with their white bodies, black wings, orange-pink beaks and a smart black stripe above the eyes. Further away from South Georgia Cloud met strangers. The Indian Yellow nosed-albatross with a yellow strip on their beaks and the grey shy albatross. Cloud sometimes saw other wandering albatrosses, great old white birds, but never his mother or his father. Cloud was lonely. The other birds were always their but never someone of his own kind and own age. One day Cloud found another Island, lying low in the ocean. Here he saw something new, animals swimming in the water with long fins on their backs which were pure black with white markings. They blew clouds of moisture from a hole near the front. Cloud knew these must be the killer whales that his mother and father spoke about. Sometimes if you followed them you could find food. Cloud did just this and the killer whales swam around the islands where he saw them catch a seal which they threw into the air before eating. Cloud landed on the water and snatched a piece but then a large killer whale swam towards him and he only just managed to take off before it lunged at him, its sharp pointed teeth glinting in the sun! Cloud stayed with the whales for several days becoming more clever at stealing scraps of food without the whales taking any notice. Then the sky darkened to black and the wind picked up. Cloud was engulfed in a huge storm. He was blown for many miles, the wind tearing at his feathers and threatening to throw him down into the boiling black sea below. He was blinded by lashing rain and then snow before finally the wind dropped and the sun, a strange white colour, shining from behind the clouds over a sea the colour of iron. Not too far away Cloud could see another wandering albatross. He side-slipped over on the stiff breeze and sidled up to say hello. The other albatross had a speckled body and black wings. Her name was Crest and she was also pleased to see another albatross. Cloud and Crest stayed together for the rest of that day telling stories about where they had been and what they had seen. Crest was also from Bird Island and like Cloud had got lost in the great storm.
Cloud and Crest stayed together flying for many months before one day they saw something very strange. A floating island, with people walking around on it. Cloud knew about people because one had come to his nest one day and his mother and father had not been around and they person had rudely picked him up and put a metal ring around his leg. This island must be a ship. It moved through the water quite fast and Cloud and Crest had great fun riding the wind behind the ship, which is whipped up. Even better, the people on the ship threw food over the side which Cloud and Crest landed on the water to eat, sometimes having to fight with other rude birds like the giant petrels. Some of the food was very strange and tasted very funny to Cloud and once or twice it even made him feel sick. However, they followed the ship until it approached another island where the people started to appear more often and were busily doing things here and there. Eventually, they started to throw something over the back of the ship. Cloud and Crest couldn’t believe it, it was fish, although there was something attached to it. Cloud was very suspicious but Crest was hungry and she dived on the fish, grabbing a piece and seeming to tug it before flying off and swallowing it. Crest said the fish was delicious and went to dive again. Cloud shouted that he thought there was something wrong and this was dangerous. The people were shouting as well and throwing things at Crest but she dived nonetheless. Crest did not come up this time though. Cloud flew around and around the ship while the people continued to throw the fish out. Where was Crest? Eventually the ship moved away leaving behind an orange ball in the water which Cloud flew around and eventually sat down by. May be he had somehow not seen Crest fly away. The next day the ship came back. Cloud flew up into the sky and flew around the ship again in the hope that Crest would be following it. The people pulled in the orange ball and then something else. A long line with big black fish on it, too big for Cloud to eat and with ferocious looking teeth. Then he saw a white shape coming up through the water. The men pulled out the dead and soaked albatross caught on the hook. It was Crest. Cloud span away and flew across the darkening sea and sky tears blinding him for days and days.
Cloud became lost and completely alone. He flew on the Endless Ocean for weeks and then months. With little food to eat he began to starve and grow thin. First he had lost his mother and father and then he had lost his very best friend Crest. One day Cloud was gliding over the Endless Ocean in the middle of nowhere on a day that was unusually calm and sunny. He was hungry and growing weak but even after everything that had happened he could not help but feel better with the sun warming his back. Something then caught his eye, a flash on the horizon. There was a fresh breeze and Cloud wheeled around and glided low and fast over the waves towards the strange flashing light. Soon he saw another ship but this was extremely big, with a black hull and a yellow funnel. There was a person standing on the side with hair on his face and tubes against his eyes and it was the glass in one of these that had caught the sun and attracted Cloud’s attention. The ship was moving very fast and other birds, including two wandering albatrosses, several white-chinned petrels and many, many prions were following the ship gliding and swooping behind it. From time to time food was thrown over the side but this ship did not stop. People were walking about on it and often stopped to look at Cloud and the other birds, often with the strange tubes up to the faces. Whatever were they doing? Cloud thought these people were strange, and they were dressed a bit like the person that had picked him off his nest one day. “Where is the ship going?” Cloud asked. But the other birds did not know. They assumed, however, that it must be going somewhere……..
|Cloud coming to see Daddy's ship|
Many days later Cloud was feeling better. He had eaten more than he had done so recently but also it was just the company of the other birds, one of whom, Snow, a pure white wandering albatross he was getting to know quite well. Cloud would often carefully glide along the ship and could see the people inside sitting down and eating food, or walking around outside looking back at him and pointing. The person with the hair on his face was often there too, wearing a bright orange coat with a yellow hat. He would stand sometimes for more than an hour watching Cloud and the other birds. Soon the ship slowed down and eventually stopped. Cloud thought it was going to throw out fish on lines and warned the other birds but instead the ship picked up a large metal crab with an orange top and dropped it over the back of the ship. The crab disappeared from view shining bright yellow lights and making the sea bubble and boil as it sank into the dark ocean. Cloud needn’t have worried about the people throwing fish though. For some reason this part of the ocean seemed to be teaming with fish. Cloud laughed to see the other birds diving and filling their beaks with fish, squid and shrimps and joined in filling his belly until he could eat no more and then he sat down on the water and watched the people on the ship. He paddled up to have a closer look as the people showed no inclination to get off the ship. He saw the person with the hair on his face again pointing at him and swam up to look more closely. He was pointing at Cloud and showing his teeth with the corners of his mouth pointed up. This, Cloud realised was a smile, and he smiled back, although he was sure the people on the ship did not know what an albatrosses smile looked like. Eventually, it started to get dark and the metal cran came back, lit up with lights. The people heaved it back onto the ship where it landed on the deck with a deep thump and the people gathered around picking things out of boxes on the front. How strange that they should come all this way and send down a metal crab to get their food. They hurried into the ship with the boxes, Cloud could smell fish and other creatures. Snow paddled up to Cloud and told him that the ship had lead them to a very special place. It was where a great underwater mountain rose up to just beneath the surface of the ocean. This mountain stirred the sea and was a place where all sorts of other sea creatures gathered to feed or to be eaten by others such as the birds, sharks and sailfish.
This was called a seamount!
Cloud tried the word and as he repeated he looked up to see two other great wandering albatrosses land. They were Steelwing and Wave Rider, Cloud’s mother and father!
|One of the naughty Black-Browed albatrosses|