Orion II – Day 6: Utashud Island

I own a puffin milk jug. There, now I’ve said it.

I’m fascinated by these stupid little birds with their ridiculous glue-on beaks, and I’ve literally gone to the ends of the earth to photograph them. But, from the coast of Newfoundland to the rocks of the Channel Islands, I’m greeted by a constant refrain: “You should have been here last week”. My perfect puffin photograph eludes me – as do the birds themselves.

There’s plenty of  time to contemplate this as Orion II sails north, along the Kuril Island chain, to the southern tip of Kamchatka. Both yesterday afternoon and this morning were spent on board, at lectures or enjoying some R&R, so by the end of lunch we’re more than ready to take to the Zodiacs again.

And we do, this time circling Utashud Island in Vestnik Bay, at the bottom of the Kamchatka Peninsula, hoping for a show of sea otters with puffins as a dazzling support act.

We approach the island via an inauspicious rusty shipwreck, battered by waves, and somehow all feel compelled to make derogatory references to every other vessel we’ve sailed on.

At Utashud, we find lots of kelp, but the sea otters must have taken the day off. There are Pacific tufted puffins everywhere, however, in flight and on the water. Sadly, they have a comfort zone just past the range of a 400mm lens.

I return to the ship with quite a lot of images of puffin behinds as they swim or fly away on approach. Millions of pixels die in a ruthless photo edit. But the Orion’s degustation dinner is excellent, and there’s always tomorrow.

Words by: David McGonigal