We just can't get enough of the Albatrosses, described as the 747 of birds. There are estimates of somewhere between 13 and 24 species of these gigantic seabirds, with much debate on the exact number, because of the elusiveness of their habits and lack of research. Here is a stunning video that displays a perfect habitat for the albatrosses:
Thanks to Jeff Jennings for sharing his rare visit to Albatross Island in NW Tasmania breeding ground for the Shy Albatross.
Albatrosses have been described as “the most legendary of all birds”. An albatross is a central emblem in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; a captive albatross is also a metaphor for the poète maudit in a poem of Charles Baudelaire. It is from the Coleridge poem that the usage of albatross as a metaphor is derived; someone with a burden or obstacle is said to have “an albatross around their neck”, the punishment given in the poem to the mariner who killed the albatross. In part due to the poem, there is a widespread myth that (all) sailors believe it disastrous to shoot or harm an albatross; in truth, sailors regularly killed and ate them, e.g., as reported by James Cook in 1772.
On the other hand, it has been reported that sailors caught the birds, but supposedly let them free again; the possible reason is that albatrosses were often regarded as the souls of lost sailors, so that killing them was supposedly viewed as bringing bad luck. The head of an albatross being caught with a hook is used as the emblem of the Cape Horners, i.e. sailors who have rounded Cape Horn on freighters under sail; captains of such ships even received themselves the title “albatrosses” in the Cape Horners' organization.
In golf, shooting three under par on a single hole has recently been termed scoring an “albatross”, as a continuation on the birdie and eagle theme.
The Maori used the wing bones of the albatross to carve flutes.
Often, legend masks the truth behind the human impact on our world's environment. Here is an excerpt about what's happening to the albatrosses and other seabirds:
Threats and conservation
In spite of often being accorded legendary status, albatrosses have not escaped either indirect or direct pressure from humans. Early encounters with albatrosses by Polynesians and Aleut Indians resulted in hunting and in some cases extirpation from some islands (such as Easter Island). As Europeans began sailing the world, they too began to hunt albatross, “fishing” for them from boats to serve at the table or blasting them for sport.
This sport reached its peak on emigration lines bound for Australia, and only died down when ships became too fast to fish from, and regulations stopped the discharge of weapons for safety reasons. In the 19th century, albatross colonies, particularly those in the North Pacific, were harvested for the feather trade, leading to the near extinction of the short-tailed albatross.
Of the 21 albatross species recognised by IUCN on their Red List, 19 are threatened, and the other two are “near threatened”. Three species (as recognised by the IUCN) are considered critically endangered: the Amsterdam albatross, Tristan albatross and the waved albatross. One of the main threats is commercial longline fishing, as the albatrosses and other seabirds—which will readily feed on offal—are attracted to the set bait, become hooked on the lines and drown. An estimated 100,000 albatross per year are killed in this fashion. Unregulated pirate fisheries exacerbate the problem.
For the whole article, visit wikipedia.org.