Day 2 |
Dec 09, 2010

By Uli Kunz - Oceanographer

Co-ordinates: 60˚01’ S, 62˚01’ W
Weather: Sunny, in the afternoon partly cloudy, fog in the evening
Air Temperature: 0 °C, 32 °F
Sea Temperature: 2 °C, 35.6 °F
Pressure: 977 hPa
Wind: 40 km/h

The weather in the Drake Passage could not have been better! Three days before, the ship encountered rough seas on our way back to Ushuaia, but today, the Drake Passage showed calm water and blue sky. What a change! But we are on our way to Antarctica, and dramatic changes in weather are common.

After the breakfast, I attended the IAATO briefing. It is mandatory for all guests to learn the rules that every tour ship has to follow to guarantee the preservation of the Antarctic wilderness. The wildlife in Antarctica is extremely vulnerable and must not be disturbed during the landings with the Zodiacs.

Right after the briefing, everyone was out on deck to watch the seabirds soaring around the ship. But Captain Peter Stahlberg also spotted a whale in front of the ship. “Thar she blows!” A fin whale emerged at the surface and showed his typical, high and narrow blow. But this individual unfortunately did not prove to be cooperative and went for a long dive after a couple of more blows, so the Prince Albert II continued her voyage towards the Antarctic Peninsula.

Just as I was about to go back inside, General Naturalist Mike Sylvia discovered another whale. It surfaced again and we could clearly see the light greyish, scarred skin and a prominent fin. With a telelens it was possible to take a picture of the whale’s head and we clearly could see a bulbous forehead, which together with its size and colour is a characteristic of a Southern Bottlenose Whale.

The beaked whales belong to a curious group of species; all have in common a "beak" like some other dolphins, and peculiar teeth in the males, growing from the lower jaw. These teeth sometimes are extraordinarily large. The beaked whales are very difficult to observe, as their blow is low and they spend most of their time under water catching prey, mostly squid from deeper layers. So most of the species are still poorly known.

In the afternoon, I presented an overview of marine life in general, the legends of the deep, and marine research during a lecture.

The day ended with the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party and Dinner. Outside the windows, the fog was clearly visible. At 8:50 pm, we had crossed the Antarctic Convergence, the water temperature dropped. We entered Antarctic water!