Day 10 |
Jan 16, 2010

In Transit Drake Passage

By David Elliot, Geologist

Weather: Out in the Drake Passage the winds were quite strong from the north-northwest, and the swell quite high.

The seas overnight were quite bumpy, and it was obvious we were out in the open waters of the Drake Passage again. The swells continued all day, and made the journey a little uncomfortable for some of us.

In the morning I gave a lecture on various fossil discoveries in the Transantarctic Mountains and explained the importance of these for the earth sciences. I concentrated on the fossil vertebrates, and for the Transantarctic Mountains added the fossil plants and the silicified peat deposits that are, because of the exceptional preservation of organic material, unique to science. The vertebrates and plants are very significant for the development and validation of the ideas about continental drift. Closer to the track of our cruise, I discussed and illustrated the fossils from James Ross, Snow Hill and Seymour Islands, which lie about 80 km (50 miles) south of Brown Bluff. Perhaps the most interesting and important are the fossil penguins and marsupials from Seymour Island, the latter linking the well-known fossil marsupial faunas of Patagonia and Australia.

Christian gave a talk about future expedition voyages aboard the Prince Albert II. Then, before lunch, Peter gave the second part of his presentation on Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition, describing the events after the Endurance had to be abandoned. The drift north, open boat journey to Elephant Island, then the voyage of the James Caird to South Georgia, and the final 36-hour-walk across the island to Stromness whaling station must rank as one of the greatest journeys ever undertaken.

In the early afternoon, Kristine, our photographer, showed the DVD that she had compiled over the last eight days of our travels and journeys ashore, and our remarkable encounters with humpback whales off Livingston Island and at Pleneau Bay. The afternoon was completed with a cooking demonstration by our Executive Chef Douglas and, by our Head Sommelier Pedrag, the pairing of the dish Douglas prepared with wine.

There wasn’t much time left in the late afternoon and early evening before I ‘freshened up’ to attend Captain Stahlberg’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. With a British Antarctic Survey pin adorning my dress jacket I had a chance to again chat with both our new guests as well as members of Silversea’s Venetian Society of returning Silversea guests as we watched the Southern Ocean wash by, now that over half of our passage to the Antarctic Peninsula is complete.