Day 9 |
Jan 26, 2010

Melchior Islands; In Transit In The Drake Passage

By David Elliot, Geologist

Weather: Overcast and moderate winds in the Melchior Islands, and continued overcast but with increasing swells as the Prince Albert II passed the Shetland Islands out into the Drake Passage

We arrived in the Melchior Islands, a small group of islands in Dallmann Bay, early in the morning and with low cloud obscuring the surrounding Anvers and Brabant Islands. The Melchior Islands are seldom visited so a scout boat was launched and the Expedition Team investigated the options for a Zodiac tour. The original tour plan was abandoned when humpback whales were seen and for the next hour the first two groups enjoyed the thrill of observing whales at close quarters, if not very close quarters. The second two groups missed the whales but instead found a pair of fur seals, our first encounter with the fourth species of seal that can be seen in the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, hauled out on the snow above a beach. Cruising amongst the islands, with their ice cliffs cut by crevasses showing beautiful blue colors, we saw many Antarctic terns plus the usual accompaniment of kelp gulls and skuas, and the odd chinstrap penguin. It was a great final Zodiac tour of the cruise.

We then set sail for Ushuaia. In the early afternoon Fritz gave his talk “The Wonderful World of Whales” in which he discussed and described the adaptations of these great marine mammals. Later in the afternoon I presented a lecture entitled “The Way the Earth Works”, a discussion of Plate Tectonics, which is to earth sciences what evolution is to biology, the unifying scientific theory. And so, with increasing swells, we headed into the Drake Passage.