Day 10 |
Feb 07, 2010

Drake Passage, Heading North Northwest

By Peter W. Damisch – Historian, General Naturalist & Cartographer

Coordinates: 58° 25' S, 064° 33’ W

Weather: Overcast with some light snow showers

Air Temperature: +1o C (33o F)

Sea Temperature: 0o C (32o F)

Pressure: 964 Hpa

Wind: 65 Km / hour

The controllers of nautical weather at sea have returned to even out the score.  We’ve had such fantastic weather throughout our prior week in the Antarctic that somehow we knew it would have to change just a bit, and today was the day for the seas to turn a little choppy.  However, when I wandered up for breakfast, I was pleasantly surprise to find that nearly all of the guests were in full attendance and that continued throughout almost all of the day’s activities.

By luck of the draw in composing the log for today, I was also first on line for a presentation this morning titled ‘Shackleton, Enduring Quest’.  This was the completion of my two-part cliffhanger story regarding the remarkable expedition to Antarctica by 28 men in 1914 – 1916. As usual, I had a great time relating some of the ‘behind the scenes’ stories that make up the rich tapestry of history that is sometimes forgotten in typical textbooks or school classes. In particular there were quite a few great questions from the audience and I always enjoy being challenged by a question that comes from a new and unique perspective.

Next up for an educational and fun presentation was Stefan, our expert geologist from Germany, who gave us an excellent overview of volcanism around the world.  His clear explanations and colorful graphics helped to describe how powerful forces shape the earth through pyroclastic flows, mud flow / lahars, earthquakes and eruptions.  I especially enjoyed his photographs from around the world showing various types of volcanoes where he has conducted research.  Stefan also provided a wonderful description regarding the internal construction of volcanoes as well as defining why there is so much variety in the behavior of these ‘mountains with hiccups’. As an amateur enthusiast of volcanoes and geology, I truly enjoyed this wonderful vision inside the Earth.

As predicted by the Captain and Expedition Leader, wave heights seemed to peak about lunchtime.  However, it wasn’t too bad and lunch was well attended by almost everyone, but probably because of the excellent cuisine served by Douglas and his magicians in the galley who work so hard under any weather conditions.

Next up on the presentation circuit was Claudia from South Africa, our environmental climatologist, who gave a superb lecture titled “Climate Change, The Global Carbon Experiment”.  In this topic, she reviewed how human beings are in the process of adding Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere in levels that have never been seen before with definitively unknown and potentially disastrous future consequences.  She explained that the climate has cyclically changed over geological time frames but never before at such a rapid rate or to the levels of CO2 seen today. Even though I have had the privilege to watch Claudia’s presentation before, she always has just a bit more information and I always find that I learn something new.

On the way to Afternoon Tea, I ran into Will, our Ornithologist from the United Kingdom, who had been out on deck observing sea birds. With the slightly elevated winds today, the Prince Albert II had been blessed with large numbers and rich variety of birds. He indicated that he had observed 10 different species in just a short time outside.

I must confess that I did not have ‘tea’ but rather was in the mood for hot chocolate instead. (In addition, I can not more highly recommend the chocolate chip scones.) I had a pleasant time discussing our voyage with our guests who always are so inquisitive about the environmentally sensitive touring accomplished by Silversea.

The next hour could have been dedicated to a Wine Tasting Seminar. However, I wanted to do something special for our final recap, and so spent the time putting together a presentation that addressed the potential fate of the Antarctic Treaty whose current provisions expire in the year 2041. After our recent visit to the ruins of the whaling station at the Deception Island volcanic caldera, I also wanted to briefly cover some of the bloody history of whaling in the Southern Ocean.  My finishing piece dealt with the loss of the Wordie Ice Shelf during the latter half of the 20th century.  I usually end my recaps with a joke or cartoon, but on this final recap day I wanted to do something different. I wanted to send guests home both with beautiful memories of this unique and pristine environment, but also with some additional motivation to return to their dozens of home countries to lobby for continued future protection for this last, great wilderness on Earth.