Day 17 |
Jan 04, 2011

Drake Passage, en route to Ushuaia 

By by Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates: 55°10’S, 066°17’W

Weather: Cloudy start, blue skies & sunshine later
Air Temperature: +10°C

The day started gently for me, with a 9 o’clock breakfast and then I went straight up to The Theatre to set up for my 10 o’clock lecture entitled “Amundsen the Sportsman, Scott the Hero?” In this talk I examined the backgrounds of the leaders of both the Norwegian and English expeditions to the South Pole in 1910, their different strategies and results. A Norwegian skier and an English naval captain set out to conquer the South Pole in an epic race, with tragic consequences.

After a short break to get some fresh air and enjoy views of the rapidly-approaching South American continent, we all filed back into The Theatre to enjoy Uli Kunz’s talk on the “Mysterious Deep Sea”. Uli told us that 90% of the earth’s biosphere is in the deep oceans, with no daylight and pressures of up to 1 ton per square cm. He explained the three rules of survival in the depths of the ocean: eat as much as you can, don’t get eaten, and mate! To illustrate this he introduced us to the grotesque and exotic angler fish, which attracts its prey by luminosity (and performs an extraordinary, “stranger-than-fiction” mating ritual!) and the vampire squid, which glows to disguise and defend itself.

Now it was time for the last lunch on board, which proved delicious as ever. After a short siesta the final lecture of the trip came around, delivered by Peter Damisch, on “Polar Pioneers: Gerlache, Unexpected Winter”. This 1897 Belgian expedition (with international personnel) was the first to overwinter south of the Antarctic Circle and the first to experience the full impact of the long Antarctic night. It was Frederick Cook and Roald Amundsen who kept the crew sane, enabling them to discover many areas of the Antarctic Peninsula and pursue a year-long programme of scientific study.

It was now 4 o’clock and so afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge was most welcome. Afterwards, most of us gathered for a final time in The Theatre to watch Part II of Kristine Hannon’s Antarctic DVD. It was wonderful! It was also a timely reminder of all that we had seen since leaving South Georgia – in terms of both scenery and wildlife. This was followed by the much-anticipated Sea Chart Auction, which was great fun and raised money for the Crew Welfare Fund.

We docked in Ushuaia just after 7pm. The approach was incredibly picturesque and it was a pleasure to see greenery again and even buildings. Sadly, it was soon time for our final cocktail hour with Perry, and then our final dinner in The Restaurant. After dinner, many of us took a walk in Ushuaia, in order to maximize our holiday experience. Then we left our luggage outside our cabins and went to bed, well content with our Antarctic experience and almost ready to return to the “real” world.