Day 10 |
Dec 28, 2010

At Sea, en route to Elephant Island 

By by Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates: 58°15’S, 045°32’W

Weather: Mostly overcast & windy
Air Temperature: +1°C

Though the seas had been quite rough during the night, most people seemed to be up and about at breakfast time, which was a good sign! The first lecture of the day was “Antarctic Oases” by Franz Gingele; in this he looked at the 2% of Antarctica that is ice-free and considered how these extraordinary areas are used by scientists. Geologists can study Antarctic rocks and the fossils they contain, thus linking Antarctica to the former super-continent of Gondwana. Ice-free areas often feature frozen lakes, important for the micro-organisms they contain. Nunataks (rocks poking through ice surfaces) can provide a haven for wildlife and the remote, desert-like Dry Valleys in the Ross Sea region can only be compared to a Martian landscape.

At 11.30am I set up for my talk – “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men”. I told of the adventures of the Aurora, which brought the second half of Shackleton’s 1914 expedition down to Antarctica. The story of how nine men were marooned in the Ross Sea region, yet still succeeded in laying supplies for Shackleton and his men to pick up on their planned trans-continental journey came as a surprise to many guests, as it is little known. Tragically, three men died…and Shackleton was not coming, since Endurance had sunk in the Weddell Sea.

During lunch, sea conditions continued to be quite challenging. Those of us in The Restaurant alternated eating our lunch with taking video clips of waves and spray to send home! After a short siesta, Marylou Blakeslee gave us a presentation about ice, its structure and properties, explaining how it formed over time and looking at both freshwater ice and sea ice. She also explored climate change, what we can learn about Earth’s past from ice cores and how we can predict Earth’s future fate by looking at ice shelf collapse along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Afternoon tea followed, then we gathered again in The Theatre to hear Conrad’s briefing about tomorrow’s Zodiac cruise off Elephant Island and to enjoy a mid-cruise preview of Kristine Hannon’s voyage DVD. It was already nearly 40 minutes long and a great reminder of all we had seen to date, with the Antarctic Peninsula portion of our voyage still to come.

The Venetian dinner was postponed due to lively seas, so we headed into a “normal” Restaurant dinner and an early night (or evening listening to Perry’s piano-playing in the Panorama Lounge). Everyone was looking forward to smoother seas tomorrow and almost as excited at the prospect of approaching Elephant Island as Shackleton must have been.