Coordinates: 58° 35' S, 064° 30’ W
Air Temperature: +5C (42F)
Wind: 20 Km/hour
We are enjoying a truly outstanding crossing of the Drake Passage. The combination of wind and waves is just at the right angle for us to make excellent speed towards our next destination. In addition, everyone has been commenting on the calm nature of the ocean, as there has been virtually no major wave action all day.
Of course this wonderful weather makes for ideal conditions to be out on deck to look for wildlife, take a walk or just get some fresh air on the outer decks. Early in the day I was able to speak to a large number of guests who were doing each of the above, especially on Deck 6, which extends fully around the ship. After getting a fair bit of exercise during our landings over the past 16 days of our voyage to the Falklands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic, several guests were taking the opportunity to continue their exercising, either in the workout room or taking a brisk walk on deck.
Many other guests worked in the Observation Lounge, Theatre or Panorama Lounge to organize and name their thousands of images taken at such stunningly beautiful locations as Salisbury Plain, Cuverville Island and Neko Harbor. I was able to assist several people who wanted a correct identification of animals such as the Crabeater Seal, Giant Petrel or Gentoo Penguin. It is always quite enjoyable for me to see the Antarctic through the eyes of others and feel some of their joy at having the privilege to observe some of the true wonders of the world in such a remote and exotic location.
Today was also the day where guests could participate in a series of presentations by our group of onboard lecture staff. Of course most staff are experienced general Antarctic naturalists but also with a specialty such as mine in Polar History. Thus, the Expedition Staff, in combination with each other, can cover specific topics such as biology, ornithology, marine mammals or geology at a wide-ranging level of detail suitable for each individual guest on board.
I also serve as ‘Recap Coordinator’ on this voyage, and one of the great aspects of this is that I get the chance to support all the others in the set up of their presentations. I simply love attending each lecture as I always learn something new that might be useful in the future.
First up today was an excellent overview of the Antarctic Research Stations that are located across the continent. Franz, our geologist, had served at many of these international stations and was able to provide a key but humorous insight into the site selection, design, construction and operation of these remote stations.
After an excellent lunch, Victoria, another historian on board, provided a comprehensive review of the Antarctic Treaty System. As you may know, Antarctica is not ‘owned’ by any nation but rather operated by member countries that conduct research. Victoria gave an outstanding glimpse into the creation, evolution and politics of the treaty organization, which manages an area that is 50% larger than Europe or the United States.
During such a busy day filled with presentations, I only had a brief period of time to answer questions while having just a spot of tea (and yes, I admit to having a biscuit or two as well) in the Panorama Lounge. Afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition on board, and I try to participate whenever possible as it gives everyone the chance to interact in a casual venue.
Later in the day, Uli Kunz, our marine biologist, gave a personal glimpse into Scientific Diving in Cold Water. As a professional research diver in polar regions, Uli is uniquely qualified to review the challenges as well as the science that can be obtained by entering watery areas of our planet rarely seen by human beings.
However, the day had another fun event in store for our guests, Captain Stahlberg’s Farewell Cocktail Party. This is a chance for everyone to get together once again to trade stories or perhaps emails for future correspondence. The Captain also introduced representatives of the crew whose hard work has been the foundation of making this voyage such a success.
Finally it was off to a wonderful dinner filled with conversations covering topics from one end of the world to another, then off to bed dreaming of a continued smooth traverse of the Drake Passage.