Day 5 |
Nov 14, 2010

At Sea

By Peter W. Damisch, Historian, General Naturalist and Cartographer

Coordinates: 52° 33' S, 058° 05’ W
Weather: Mostly bright clear skies, cloudy in late afternoon.
Seas: A bit of a swell and white caps transitioned to calmer seas throughout the day.
Air Temperature: +5˚C / 41˚F
Pressure: 1006 Hpa
Wind: 25 Km / hour

This was a great day to get up early if only to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous weather. After such a wonderful time in the Falkland Islands, one might have been tempted to sleep in just a bit, but I wanted to appreciate as much of the ocean sea life as possible.

My first stop on the Bridge gave me an excellent view of soaring Cape Petrels, which were gliding just above and in front of Prince Albert II’s bow. These beautiful and large birds are also known as the Cape Pintado due to the stunning dark and white coloration across the top to the wing, marking that are often described as a vivid ‘splash of paint’.

I was having so much fun observing the large quantity and variety of seabirds that I just barely arrived in The Theatre before Victoria, one of our onboard historians, began her riveting presentation about the life of Ernest Shackleton. Of course Shackleton’s name has worldwide fame and Victoria was able to expertly draw out some of the true aspects that are not often covered in history books. Guests enjoyed learning more about this famous explorer who was one of the key individuals to push the boundaries of knowledge during the ‘Golden Age of Antarctic Exploration’.

True expeditions enjoy the benefit of scheduling flexibility, and during a brief Expedition Team meeting, we learned that our Team Leader had adjusted our schedule so that now we will be able to cruise more slowly past Shag Rocks tomorrow in hopes of seeing whales. Previous Prince Albert II expeditions have had particularly good luck with sightings on the past few visits. In addition, we have been able to add an additional landing at South Georgia Island, one that we had not expected. All of this was great news as it provides us even more opportunities to see a wider variety of Antarctic wildlife.

I next walked directly to the Panorama Lounge where our Executive Chef Norbert Ruhdorfer hosted a fun and educational cooking demonstration that focused on the proper preparation of risotto – with some humorous assistance from our Maitre ‘Dee – and some wine pairing suggestions from the Prince Albert II’s Head Sommelier. I spoke with several couples who do quite a bit of special cooking at home, and all were excited about learning new techniques to acquire peak flavors through the control of proper temperature and the addition of unexpected but subtle ingredients. The best part was that everyone had the opportunity to eat the results!

During the lunch hour I heard many positive guest reactions regarding our visits to West Point Island, Saunders Island, Bluff Cove and Stanley, Falkland Islands. Most guests had not previously realized that they would see 4 species of penguins in the islands and that the entire area has a stark but stunning beauty unlike anywhere else in the world.

Just after lunch I stepped outside to marvel at the arrival of Wandering Albatross. We had been observing Black Browed Albatross for several days, however the Wandering Albatross are even more magnificent. With wing spans that extend up to 3.5 meters, they seem so happy to simply dip and soar in the swirling air currents behind the ship as our propellers stir up the nutrients that assist them in their long lives at sea.

During the early afternoon I stopped by a wonderful, ‘from the heart’ presentation by our Geologist, Franz Gingele. He had spent a great deal of time on board German and French Antarctic research vessels. His images of sampling equipment on board and descriptions of the difficulties involved with conducting cutting edge research in the depths of the sea really provided a unique and humorous insight into the life of a scientist. Franz also reviewed some of the discoveries that were made but also made it quite clear how many things can go wrong.

Now I needed a bit of refreshment so I headed aft for a bit of Afternoon Tea, something of a tradition on board. I also very much enjoy meeting the guests who are visiting from at least 16 countries. This ‘family of nations’ on board the Prince Albert II is just one of the reasons that I so enjoy working for Silversea. It’s great that so many of the guests are knowledgeable, well traveled and curious. Their questions can be challenging but that is just another aspect that makes these trips so fascinating.

Later in the afternoon, I wandered up to listen to Hans-Peter Reinthaler, our resident Plant Biologist, discuss ‘Cabbage and Pearlwort – Plant Life on the Southern End of the Earth’. Of course, knowing Hans-Peter, I knew it would be much more than that and I was justly rewarded. He provided a comprehensive summary of plant life on the remote Sub-Antarctic Islands as well as Antarctica, including the famous Dry Valleys. It has always been amazing to me to see the tenacity of life in such a cold and hostile climate, and amazing too that we will soon arrive at this remarkable place.