Machias Seal Island

On a recent visit to Maine we made a trip out to Machias Seal Island to see the incredible bird life there. Thousands of  ocean birds nest on the island for the summer raising their chick(s). After their short stay they are off to the sea again, in the puffins case for years at a time on the open sea without setting foot on land.  I highly recommend this trip if you are down east Maine. The trip begins in Jonesport early in the morning, everyone meets at the docks at 6:30 and the boat leaves at 7:00 am.
The trip is run by the Nortons of Jonesport and the Captain is John Norton, a colorful character who tends to be crabby in the early morning. He is the picture of a sea captain and he makes it abundantly clear who is in charge and who gives the orders. In the photograph below right Captain John is piloting the boat used to ferry  passengers from the big boat to the island.  It takes about 1 1/2 hours to reach Machias Seal Island from Jonesport, much of the trip on the open Atlantic aboard the 40 foot Chief. 

Seas can get quite rough, swells build and you can soon find yourself going a bit green if you have a tendency to motion sickness. I wore the wrist bands that the first mate Peggy provided and had no problems with sea sickness.  Weather is always an issue in this part of the world, fog is frequent and it is always quite chilly on the waters of the north Atlantic. Sea temperatures only reach about 55 degrees in mid summer and the cold water really effects the air temperature. 

 When we arrived at the island the fog was thick, but seas were fairly calm. The only way you can land on the island is by stepping off the smaller boat onto the rocks, or in our case, the slippery  seaweed covered rocks  because it was low tide. Seas must be calm or there is no way to make a landing, the boat would be thrown into the rocks and tipped over. Capt john is very conservative and runs a safe operation, if it looks too rough no one goes ashore.  
Once ashore you are greeted by the lighthouse keeper and one of the Canadian volunteers who spend the summer on the island studying the birds. They lay down the rules about moving around the island; always stay in single file, always look where you walk because there are chicks and eggs lying in the path and nests everywhere, we passed many newborn chicks along the way. You are provided with a long stick to carry and hold over your head because the arctic and common turns get quite aggressive during nesting season, the sticks are provided so the turns peck at that rather than your head. A hat isn't a bad idea either unless your inclined to try some natural varients of hair tonic.

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