Day 11 |
Feb 19, 2010

Drake Passage Before Entering The Beagle Channel And Heading Towards Ushuaia

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Weather: A mostly bright day with the occasional shower during the morning and some nice sunshine later and a 20-knot south-westerly wind

The Prince Albert II had made good time throughout the night so by the time I looked out from the Bridge after breakfast we were well on our way towards the Beagle Channel. The fresher winds meant that it was easier for the birds to glide today, which was very much to the liking of the Black-browed and occasional Wandering Albatrosses. The slight chop on the sea did mean that any cetacean sightings would be few and far between unlike the excitement of yesterday morning.

We knew we were nearing land as we started to see more of the Sooty Shearwaters that frequent the waters around the Horn along with a scattering of the superficially similar White-chinned Petrels and the ubiquitous Wilson’s Petrels and the ever-present Southern Giant Petrels.

During the morning, Peter gave part two of his lecture following Shackleton and his epic story of survival. Later on during this relaxed day at sea, Pedrag our Head Sommelier and our Head Chef Douglas gave a food and wine seminar in the Panorama Lounge, inspiring those present to try something new.

In the early part of the afternoon, Claudia, in her lecture, reviewed the current thoughts on climate change and in particular how it would relate to Antarctica, our home for the last ten days or so. This was followed later in the day by a Team Trivia Challenge held by Anthony Delasey, one of our guests. The Expedition Staff formed teams, as did many of the guests for what proved a fun end to the afternoon as we began our entry into the Beagle Channel. The winning team came from the Expedition Staff following a tie-break question and modesty prevents me from saying if I was on the winning team!

The lights of Ushuaia beckoned as we gracefully sailed up the channel past some small flocks of Black-browed Albatrosses and many Imperial Shags roosting on the offshore islands. Some Peale’s Dolphin put in a typically brief appearance on the calm seas of the Beagle. A scattering of Magellanic Penguins could be seen from the windows as we enjoyed the farewell cocktail party hosted by the Captain in the Theatre before we headed for the Restaurant for dinner for the last time.

After the absence of greenery for so long the sight of trees and other vegetation looked somehow out of place following the spectacular ice and snow scenery we had become used to, but was also a reminder of the very special place we had visited.