Day 5 |
Dec 23, 2010

At Sea

By Uli Kunz, Oceanographer


Coordinates: 52˚40’ S, 48˚35’ W
Weather: Overcast, in the afternoon light fog
Air Temperature: 6 °C, 42.8 °F
Sea Temperature: 4 °C, 39.2 °F
Pressure: 992 hPa
Wind: 15.8 km/h

It is roughly 800 miles from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia and it will take two full days to arrive there. The guests are, as usual, still in charge of the weather and up to now they have done a very good job!

In the morning, Peter Damisch presented a very entertaining and informative lecture about the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Peter gave an interesting overview of Shackleton's early years and his will to travel to Antarctica and fulfill what no one had ever done before. In 1911, Amundsen has already reached the South Pole first, but there was still a challenge: The crossing of the white continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea.
Upon his announcement to look for volunteering seamen, he received about 5,000 requests back! He chose his men carefully, looking for personalities that would make a good team and be willing to work together in the harshest conditions and in a very confined place. Peter ended his talk with Shackleton setting out for his voyage to Antarctica. Part II is soon to come!

After lunch (delicious as always, Executive Chef Norbert does a fantastic job), I headed out on deck together with the Expedition Staff. “Mad Dog” Rich and Mike spent hours outside, showing the guests amazing seabirds flying around the ship. Today they counted 15 different species! But no whales so far... but in the afternoon, lecturer Franz Gingele walked out on deck and within a few seconds spotted four fin whales in the vicinity of the Prince Albert II and walked back inside... lucky hit!

In the afternoon, I presented a lecture about the “Legends of the Deep”, anecdotes and stories about the oceans in general. Where is the deepest place on earth? Why is it so difficult to conduct research in the deep sea? Does the giant squid really exist? Are there corals in cold waters?

Later in the afternoon, Marylou talked about the most important animal in the Southern Ocean, serving as food for seals, penguins, whales, birds: Krill. The species Euphausia superba is perhaps the most successful organism on the planet, having a total biomass of about 200-250 million tons! The underside of ice floes, pack and fast ice serve as a nursery for the growing krill, feeding on a variety of monocellular algae, mostly diatoms, that live there.

At 6 pm, the seawater thermometer on the Bridge displayed 4°C and it was foggy outside. We were crossing the Antarctic Convergence, where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the Sub-Antarctic flowing south. Within approximately 50-100 kilometres, the temperature of the seawater drops about 3-5°Celsius. The Convergence is not a fixed line drawn onto a map or a political border. We will not find an Immigration Office there, but it clearly marks our transfer into the realm of Antarctica! Welcome!