Lonesome Place

A wandering albatross is a "regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness," — Herman Melville.

Artistic license allowed for an increase in the feeling of solitude by placing the bird at a great height as evidenced by the curvature of the earth. In reality this arc does not become noticeable until an altitude around 35,000 feet is reached. An albatross flies much lower as they need the constant support from air currents nearer the ocean's surface.

Most of us will never see a Wandering Albatross or know much about these solitary birds. Here are a few tidbits of interest:

The largest of flying birds, the Wandering Albatross can have wingspans over 11 feet and lifespans over 50 years. It is seen in greatest numbers wandering the southern oceans. Since they spend years without seeing land, ocean water is consumed safely using glands that filter out salt.

These large birds excel at soaring by locking their wings in the open position. This allows them to effortlessly cover thousands of miles a year by taking advantage of the surface winds. They grab short naps while resting on the water, but this is dangerous. Some think they may also alternate resting each side of the brain while flying. If true, this would permit one eye to stay alert to avoid collisions.

Pairs return to land every other year to breed. They both take turns tending a single egg. Around 10 months of age a chick will fledge. After taking flight, the young bird will spend the next 5 years or more at sea growing to maturity before returning to land and choosing a mate of their own.