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Light-mantled Sooty Albatross

Light-mantled Albatross

A true ocean wanderer, only ever visiting land to breed

What you need to know about the Light-mantled Albatross

Our Expert Says… "Unlike other albatross species, these don't seem too bothered about following the ships closely, so when spotted they tend to do a "fly-by"! Interestingly it's quite common to see them at sea in pairs. What we don't know is whether these are actual breeding pairs or just individuals who have "teamed up". Either way, it's unlike the solitary habits of the other albatross species away from land."

Also known as the light-mantled sooty albatross, this species is arguably the most graceful of all the albatrosses in flight.

Given their alternative name due to their sooty-brown coloring, the light-mantled albatross has an average wingspan of about 2m (6ft 8") and adult birds weigh around 3.4kg (7.5bls).

True ocean wanderers, the light-mantled albatross stays out at sea away from land except to breed and raise chicks. In the breeding season, their aerial courtship displays are remarkable feats of flight as they impress mates with their aerobatics.

Once mated, this albatross pair-bonds for many years if not for life, and individuals can live for up to 40 years in the wild. Their preferred food is squid or krill, but they will also take what they can find in terms of fish and crustaceans as well as the remains of seals or penguins.

There are estimated to be less than 60,000 light-mantled albatross remaining, and their numbers are thought to be falling. This makes the colony on South Georgia an important site for breeding and for monitoring this beautiful albatross.

Light-mantled Albatross: Pictures & Videos

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross

Spots where the Light-mantled Albatross can be observed

Grytviken, Fortuna Bay

Grytviken only exists because of the whaling industry. It was opened as a whaling station in 1904 because Fortuna Bay was considered to be the best natural harbor in South Georgia. The site operated for almost 60 years and over 53,000 whale carcasses were landed and processed here.

Although founded by a Norwegian, the name “Grytviken” is actually Swedish! It means “Pot Bay” and was named by the Swedish survey expedition of 1902 because they found several old British try pots here - large vessels used to render down seal blubber.

The whaling station was abandoned in 1966 as uneconomical after stocks of whales in the region had dropped to critical levels due to over-hunting, and there are no permanent residents. However, a few officials do live here during the tourist season to manage the South Georgia Museum and the post office which is located here, that is fascinating place to visit, and even purchase some souvenirs

There is more famous Antarctic human history to discover at Grytviken. Just outside the settlement lies the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, who died here from a sudden heart attack in 1922. There is also a marker next to his grave marking the spot where the ashes of his key crew member and fellow explorer Frank Wild were interred.

As well as the museum, Grytviken also has a church - remarkably still used for occasional services.

While most people come here for human history, the area is also great for wildlife and natural history doesn’t disappoint. Fortuna Bay is known for its large king penguin colonies and is a popular haul out for many elephant seals, as well as innumerable seabirds. Just watch out for the fur seals that may be resting amongst the whaling era debris.

Our trips to spot the Light-mantled Albatross

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