Day 2 |
Jan 19, 2010

Drake Passage En Route To Antarctic Peninsula

By Peter W. Damisch, Historian, General Naturalist, and Cartographer

Coordinates: 57° 51' S, 063° 56’ W

Weather: Overcast turning to partly sunny in late morning

Air Temperature: + 3o C  ( 36o F )

Sea Temperature: + 2o C  ( 34o F )

Pressure: 987 Hpa

Wind: 10 Km / hour

This morning dawned with bright sunshine, light winds and very little ocean swell. This is a tremendously good weather day in the Drake Passage! Of course the first thing I did was to grab my binoculars and walk back towards the stern of the ship where there is a very nice Observation Deck protected from the wind by the ship’s structure. My early morning walk was well rewarded by a few other early risers who were also out and about to enjoy the sun as well as our fellow travelers on the sea: the wandering albatross. These magnificent birds seem to effortlessly glide along over the ocean, soaring back and forth using wind eddies generated by the Prince Albert II. I never get tired of this beautiful display of grace and elegance from a creature that often flies thousands of kilometers each year across the oceans of the world. It was also nice to reflect that thanks to the efforts of governments of such territories as the Falklands and South Georgia, additional environmental and fishing controls have been implemented to enhance the survival of these wonderful birds with such great wing spans of up to 3.5 meters.

After a nice breakfast with guests from 4 different countries, I attended the IAATO briefing given by Robin, our Expedition Leader. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators ( IAATO ) is an organization that regulates tourism activities, including guidelines regarding appropriate guest behavior. One of the reasons that I enjoy working for Silversea is that they have always been a strong supporter and proponent of environmental controls and zero discharge waste management in the Antarctic. The Expedition Team does everything it can to ensure that all guests can experience the beauty, joy and wonder of the Antarctic but in a responsible manner that maintains a pristine environment for local wildlife to live as well as for future generations to enjoy.

Next was the always fun presentation regarding Zodiac operations, where we introduce our guests to safety issues, including the proper method to board our nimble craft. These Zodiacs are enormously stable but are also tough enough to allow the Expedition Team to land in a wide variety of remote locations. As a Zodiac Driver for Silversea and as an instructor for small boat operations back home, I am always amazed and quite pleased how quickly people ‘get into the swing of things.’ The first landing always takes a bit more time as people get adjusted to the system but the easy learning process goes quite quickly and by the second landing almost everyone is an expert ‘old hand’ at Zodiac operations.

Just before midday I had a chance to meet and chat with individuals at Silversea’s First Timers’ Cocktail Party. These people were voyaging with us for the first time and it was great to be able to answer questions that they had about the upcoming voyage. It is also quite fun for me to learn what other exotic locations had been visited by our new guests as some of them had been to many remote places but had always had the Antarctic on their ‘trip of a lifetime’ wish list.

The weather was so brilliantly nice that The Restaurant staff quickly and professionally scrambled to set up an outside dining area on the sunny aft deck, which was absolutely fabulous. Having lunch in the sun and watching the Drake Passage glide by is an experience not to be missed! I also spoke to several guests who had been taking great photographic shots of albatross and petrels flying. In addition, one guest indicated that they had briefly spied a few dolphins as well as a couple of penguins who must have been out on a unusually long distance feeding trip, but unfortunately these creatures disappeared just before I came up on deck.

After lunch I stopped by to listen to Kristine, our professional photographer, who shared some ‘inside tips’ about getting the most out of your Antarctic photography. I find that I always pick up a few good pointers as the conditions and lighting change so quickly in the Antarctic that some minor adjustments in technique can bring a big improvement in the outcome.

Later in the day, the Expedition Team and I had another chance to chat with guests, and learn more about their widely varied backgrounds. Simultaneously, a nice afternoon tea was served up in the Panorama Lounge.

Next in this busy day at sea was a great presentation by Claudia Holgate titled “Ice, Wind and Waves: An Introduction to Antarctica and its Climate”. This discussion is always a great start towards informing guests about the wonderful continent that we are about to visit. As usual, our curious and inquisitive guests were able to ask a wide variety of interesting questions. These optional enrichment presentations by the experienced Expedition Staff are always well attended. They are also another reason that I enjoy working for Silversea, for it allows me to assist in providing a vacation experience that is not only enjoyable but also educational.

Our evening continued with Captain Golubev introducing his very experienced staff at the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and Dinner. I had the good fortune to co-host a table with the Staff Captain and we shared an excellent meal full of such a wide-ranging series of conversations on such a broad variety of topics that any list provided here would be incomplete. It is always so much fun to dine with a group of people who have such a wonderful, extensive set of experiences.

The combination of events made this day quite enjoyable and we all headed off to bed hoping for continued good weather tomorrow as well as a dreaming about crossing the Antarctic Circumpolar Current later tonight. This is where the water and air temperature drop, providing the true biological boundary to the Antarctic regions as well as offering the hope of sighting icebergs by tomorrow afternoon!