Day 1 |
Jan 29, 2010

Ushuaia, Argentina

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Weather: Some sunshine but increasing showers during evening

The first day of a cruise to Antarctica is one full of great hopes and expectations and today was no exception. The Prince Albert II filled with guests during the afternoon and before long everyone was onboard and exploring the ship.

The mandatory lifeboat drill took place at 5pm when everyone had assembled in The Theatre to listen to Igor, the Safety Officer, explaining what was involved and the Expedition Team made sure every guest knew how to put on their lifejacket.

Shortly afterwards an announcement by Robin West, the Expedition Leader, told us that the ship was about to leave port and it was a good opportunity to get out on deck to watch. As we slipped our mooring the ship’s siren let off three blasts to be answered by the Deutschland and the Amsterdam that were still tied up alongside the quay.

As the ship began its cruise down the length of the Beagle Channel, we encountered some of the birdlife that would have counterparts in Antarctica. Flocks of Imperial Cormorants were feeding and moving in large flocks being harried by Chilean Skuas trying to persuade them to drop the fish they had just caught. In a few days’ time it would be the Antarctic Shags being chased by the Antarctic Skuas. South American Terns, Kelp and Dolphin Gulls were also very active in the sheltered waters of the channel.

The rain showers came in as dusk and began to fall, but we had a taste of things to come as the first Black-browed Albatrosses were seen, often sitting in large groups on the water, and with these a scattering of Magellanic Penguins were noted. During the evening I spent a while on deck on the leeward side of the ship watching these majestic albatrosses as they lifted off the surface of the sea in front of us with hardly a flap, before they began their gliding flight that enables them to cover so much of the world’s southern oceans.