Day 6 |
Dec 24, 2010

 Shag Rocks and Southern Ocean 

By by Rich Kirchner, General Naturalist


Co-ordinates: 53˚ 28”S 42˚00” W
Weather: Sunny with mild winds and good “following” sea
Air Temperature: 46˚F
Sea Temperature: 4˚C

Getting a good night’s rest, I awoke to a beautiful morning in the Southern Ocean – sunny and warm, with a smooth ride on the ship. After having a quick cup of coffee and some fruit and a croissant, I grabbed my coat, hat and binoculars, and headed out on deck to see what wildlife might be around. My presence on deck was immediately rewarded with views of magnificent Wandering Albatross and a variety of other sea birds.

We were coming into shallower water and heading for an area called Shag Rocks, on our way to South Georgia, the next stop on the itinerary. As the morning progressed, there were ever increasing numbers of birds, and then finally the first whales were spotted. Peter Damisch was just about finished with his lecture on Shackelton when the announcement came from the Captain that whales had been spotted ahead. Many of the guests came out from the lecture to see the two Humpback Whales and single Southern Right Whale, but a number decided to stick with the captivating story that Peter was telling in The Theatre.

The reason we were seeing more wildlife was that this shallow area has a lot of rich food available, and the wildlife was here in great numbers taking advantage of the bounty. We ended up seeing three different species of whales, and thousands of sea birds, big and small!

Right after our encounter with the whales, the announcement came from Daniil, our Assistant Expedition Leader, that it was time to do the “bio security” check on all of our outdoor gear and backpacks. This was mandatory checking for any foreign seeds or matter that could possibly get spread by us to the island of South Georgia. This is an important step in preventing alien species invading this unique island habitat!

Right about noon we arrived just off Shag Rocks, and the Captain slowed down to give everybody a good look at these unique features out in the middle of the Southern Ocean. We did, however, need to keep moving to make our destination on South Georgia the next morning. So off we went, still followed by a variety of birds, on this lovely day in the Southern Ocean!

Later this afternoon, Franz Gingele, gave a lecture entitled “The Endless Southern Ocean”, talking about this huge water mass with some of the biggest ocean currents in the world. Later, our Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink gave a mandatory IAATO briefing, which relayed a lot of very important information that our guests needed to hear before we could do our first landing on South Georgia or Antarctica.

Shortly after that we had our nightly briefing from Conrad about the next day’s activities, plus a short recap by the Expedition Team. Then it was off to Christmas Eve dinner. Oh, by the way, “MERRY CHRISTMAS”!