National Geographic : 1955 Jan
115 Flensers Strip Leviathan's Blubber and Chop Baleen from Gaping Jaws Intensive hunting long ago killed off the whale herds in South Georgia's bays. Now island-based killer boats range far to sea. They and "floating factory" ships operate under treaties designed to prevent extinction. morsels, and, when no ready-cut food is available, resorting to the untouched whale carcasses awaiting dismemberment (opposite). The stinker will seize anything: fish, crusta ceans, or the young of other birds. If the albatross is excluded, it is the largest of the petrel family, being about 37 inches long and weighing around 8 pounds. Its wings extend more than six feet. The stinker's nest is a bulky affair about two feet across and two feet high, built of tussock, moss, and mud. The young are hatched in December. Here I have another grudge against the stinker. Whenever I ap proached, it had no hesitation whatever in for saking its diminutive chick. In most cases stinker colonies are built on hilltops and headlands to assist the bird in taking to the air, for, compared with alba trosses, they are notoriously bad performers on land. When pressed, the stinker runs with legs almost vertical, but after a while it re verts, like so many petrels, to a clumsy gait with tarsus barely raised from the ground. On Albatross Island it could not always find a nesting place on high ground, and there was immediate panic if we came over a hillock to surprise one in a hollow; a blind rush through the tussock usually produced one or two somersaults before the frightened bird got into the air. Clumsy Birds Use Island "Airfields" On this same island there were a number of flat grassy "airfields," smooth as tennis courts; it amused me to see a number of un occupied stinkers always at the downwind end of these, ready to take off at the slightest alarm. When approached during incubation, chances are that the stinker will throw up its entire last meal. Since it can shoot up to six feet, we always approached warily, or some of its choicest dishes would land as a perma nent reminder on our clothes. No amount of cleaning will remove the odor. From the very start the stinker chick, too, can deliver a powerful little jet of oil, and its aim seems to be even better than that of its parents.