Day 10 |
Apr 03, 2011

At sea en route to Sao Tome

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 2 54 837 S, 008 27 894 E 

Weather: Mostly cloudy with light southerly breeze
Air Temperature: 31C
Pressure: 1013hP

After the very calm seas of yesterday there was a little more breeze this morning but it did not seem to bring much more bird activity. Early yesterday morning there was a scattering of Sooty Terns not far from the Prince Albert II but it seemed they were feeding elsewhere today when I had a look outside before breakfast. As we get nearer to Sao Tome we will hopefully see more activity, but birds were in short supply this morning.

As we would be snorkeling and kayaking in a few days time, Robin Aiello gave the snorkeling briefing in The Theatre this morning covering all aspects of how these activities take place and how to signal if one needed help or that everything was fine. She also explained what gear we carried on the Prince Albert II and how to use the mask and snorkel, especially how to clear water from the mouthpiece and make sure that the mask was on properly.

It was then time for the fitting of flippers and masks outside Reception. Robin, our Expedition Leader, called all the guests deck by deck and we all assisted guests in getting the correct size flippers, and if they did not have their own, to collect a mask and snorkel from the ship’s supply.

In late morning, Marcus our Executive Chef gave a presentation in the Panorama Lounge entitled ‘ Behind the scenes with the Chef’ in which he gave us a lot of information about the culinary operation on board the Prince Albert II and how they produce such amazing meals from such limited space.

It was then time for lunch where the scattering of whitecaps on the sea gave a very picturesque backdrop to The Restaurant as we ate.

This afternoon’s main event was the Equator crossing party where all those who have not crossed the equator on a ship (the “pollywogs”) were taken through the initiation process. Jarda was dressed as Davy Jones, Robin as King Neptune; Daniil was Amphrite the queen, Juan the Baby and Robin Aiello the fish, Olga the nurse, with the rest of us as pirates.

It began with the ship’s horn being blown and King Neptune getting permission to come aboard from the Captain before the pollywogs were brought out onto the back of the sundeck where the initiation began. This involved a coating of luridly coloured egg white to their hair before getting sluiced by some cold water and then being fed spaghetti and hard-boiled eggs coated with peanut butter. This was followed by kissing the queen’s feet, which had an addition of tomato ketchup, then kissing the baby’s belly with its coating of mustard. They were then led to kiss the fish, after which I used the fire hose to clean them off again before they could be checked by the ‘nurse’ prior to admission to the ranks of those who had crossed the equator – the “shellbacks”. Everyone took it all in very good heart and seemed quite glad to cool off in the water from the hose.

Those watching must have taken hundreds of photos as every time I looked around there was another picture being taken. Eventually all those who wanted to be initiated were now full members of the shellbacks and it was time to clean up all the mess we had made at the end of a memorable event.

In late afternoon I spent a little while on the Bridge and managed to find a few birds in the shape of a Leach’s Petrel that was presumably on its way back north as it breeds in northern Europe as does the Arctic Skua I saw a few minutes later. So there were some birds about, just widely scattered.

Judging by how few guests were visible during the next hour or so I think a little siesta or two may have taken place before Hans-Peter’s lecture later in the afternoon. This was entitled ‘Tropical Rainforests of Africa - the Vanishing Paradise’. His presentation gave us an insight to this amazing habitat, which is a unique ecosystem and home to many birds and animals including the very rare Forest Elephants. He also talked about the many threats it faces including the heavy logging that has reduced this area in size in the last 150 years.

It was then time to get ready for Recap & Briefing on our landing in Sao Tome tomorrow. Robin Aiello started by talking about the Flying Fish that we had been seeing before Hans-Peter came up to talk about some of the wide variety of plants we would be looking for tomorrow. He also gave us an idea of the diversity of wildlife breeding on Principe and Sao Tome and finished by talking about the frogs and reptiles of the islands. I then went on to give some information about some of the 29 species of endemic birds that we would be looking for on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. I finished my presentation by showing a few of the more common birds we should see, as some of the endemics are so rare that we would have to be very lucky to see them. We shall see. David Conrad, our guest lecturer, then came up to talk about some of the spirit characters that are called upon to make the waters calm and the fishing good in the lakes and rivers of Africa.

Robin, our Expedition Leader, finished the recap by going over the timings for all the events on Sao Tome tomorrow where Hans-Peter and I would be leading a birding and a botany walk that looks very interesting. He then wished us ‘Bon Appetit’ as we headed towards The Restaurant for dinner.