Day 10 |
Nov 19, 2010

At sea, en route to Elephant Island

By Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates: 56°57.5’S, 041°51.2’W
Weather: Overcast and foggy, with some sea swell
Air temperature: +2°C

After three days of beautiful weather and frantic activity on South Georgia, I rather welcomed a quiet day at sea. All was calm and peaceful indoors, though the ship was pitching somewhat as we were sailing into a moderate wind. Still, most of us have got better sea legs than a week ago, when we last experienced slightly challenging sea conditions.

Breakfast was well under way by the time I reached the Restaurant and those who had chosen to get up for it had still enjoyed a lie-in compared with the last few days. At 9.30 am Franz Gingele gave us a talk entitled Antarctic Oases. In this he explored the local environments in the 2% of the continent NOT covered by ice and snow. These areas include some coastal zones, nunataks (bare rock rising through ice) and the extraordinary Dry Valleys in the Ross Sea. Franz covered plants and animals as well as his favourite subject of rocks!

After a break for us to walk around on deck and stretch our legs, Chris Harbard gave us the talk we had all been waiting for – on Penguins. He dealt with all the penguin species we have seen and hope to see, as well as several from other regions, and many of our questions were answered. Our appetites to reach the Peninsula and experience Antarctica proper following our initiation in South Georgia, were truly whetted.

To my delight (since I’m British), an English “pub lunch” was being served in the Panorama Lounge in addition to our usual buffet in the Restaurant. What a treat, to be able to choose a bacon sandwich and chips accompanied by real English beer, so far from home.

After that it had to be naptime, though Shoshanah Jacobs’ lecture The Debate on Climate Change encouraged a number of guests to return to the Theatre at 3pm. She attempted to present facts from both sides on this controversial subject (from the perspective of a scientist, accustomed to analyzing data), whilst also drawing our attention to how impossible it was to discuss climate change without bias. Shoshanah used polar examples - of sea ice shrinking, vegetation increasing, sea losing salinity and the effects of all these on the local population (in the Arctic) to make her point. Antarctica also provided useful illustrations (especially from ice core data) because of its distance from direct industrial influence. One problem is that the data are often contradictory, though we can draw some conclusions from changes in penguin populations, increasing colonization of Antarctica by plants, etc.

Then it was time for tea in the Panorama Lounge, which offered a good opportunity to discuss our own views on climate change informally.

The next event was Recap & Briefing at 6pm, when we gathered again in the Theatre for a sociable drink and information session. Conrad kicked off with a look at what tomorrow’s day at sea holds in store. I presented what I consider to be a truly inspiring story of Douglas Mawson in the Home of the Blizzard, followed by Hans-Peter with some facts and figures on the reindeer we saw on South Georgia. Peter came next with an amusing account of what polar explorers used to eat (including seal and penguin – and what they tasted like!) and finally Shoshanah took the microphone to explain the Beaufort Wind Scale, after which we tested out our understanding on various photographs of turbulent seas.

This evening’s projected Venetian dinner was postponed until a later date owing to the unpredictability of the Southern Ocean, so we went to the Restaurant in our normal evening wear, saving the special outfits for later on in the voyage! After dinner, Perry was, as always, in the Panorama Lounge to entertain us before bed. And so, to sleep, gently lulled by the swell.