Day 2 |
Nov 15, 2011

West Coast of Chile, South Pacific Ocean 

By Peter W. Damisch – Historian, General Naturalist, Cartographer

Co-ordinates: 36o 46’ S, 073o 43’ W
Weather: High overcast and bright but with a bit of sea swell
Air Temperature: 12o C / 54 o F
Pressure: 1012 HPa
Wind: 70 km / hour

Today was our first full day at sea since the ship’s departure from the famous port city of Valparaiso, Chile. We are traveling south in relatively good weather while experiencing a little ship movement due to long period sea swells, which are being significantly moderated by our computer controlled ship stabilizers.

Of course, as is the usual situation on board our friendly ship, the Silver Explorer, a ‘sea day’ can be quite busy with many activities offered throughout the day. My morning started off quite interestingly as one of our guests came to sit down next to me at breakfast and let me know a little personal secret. He had read in our daily ‘Silversea Chronicles’ that I was going to be giving a presentation titled ‘Darwin: Revolution of the Species’. He knew that I was going to give the presentation for 3 easy reasons: 1) all of the expedition staff had the opportunity to introduce ourselves last night and 2) one of the beauties of a relatively small, expedition ship such as ours is that you get to meet everyone fairly quickly and 3) by tradition just before I give a presentation, I briefly change out of my standard Silversea polo shirt and put on a “I Love History” long sleeve shirt which I hope helps set the tone for my presentation. As for this gentleman’s secret, well, it turns out that he lives in the house adjacent to where Darwin was born! This may fall into ‘it’s a small world’ category and he had never imagined that Darwin might be a topic of discussion on our voyage.

This is just one type of the history that I love where one can find, not simply dry facts and figures, but truly have the chance to discover interesting and sometimes obscure portions of history that aren’t part of the typical school-type instruction. For example, many people remember Darwin for his 5 – 6 weeks spent in the Galapagos but have not had the joy of learning that he spent more than one year exploring the very same areas of Chile that we will experience on board the Silver Explorer over the next 10 days.

After having some fun with a large number of guests during our discussions about Darwin, I briefly assisted Lu Davidson, our professional onboard photographer and videographer, set up for her presentation titled ‘Basic Photography and Story Telling’. This is a superb talk aimed at giving everyone the opportunity to get the most out of their holiday photographs. Lu has such a fantastic background from all over the world and can convey those little ‘tricks’ that can turn an otherwise ordinary image into something that is truly memorable. Fortunately, and as is typical of the excellent planning on board, her lecture is given at the beginning of many voyages to ensure everyone has the most benefit for not only this voyage but also for the balance of their picture-taking careers.

Next a great lunch was served in The Restaurant with its panoramic windows. Already during the day a number of people had been out on decks enjoying the soaring sea birds by eye as well as using binoculars. Even better was that this activity began to stimulate questions to Liz and other members our professional Expedition Team regarding types of birds seen, their lifestyles and behaviors.

Robin, our Expedition Leader, then led off the afternoon with our Zodiac and Destination Briefing. Zodiacs are our high-powered, rubber craft that allow us access to areas of the world and ports that could never be visited by a typical ‘cruise ship’. These smaller vessels are great, safe, and easy to work with and just need a little operational introduction to all of our guests to ensure we can achieve safe and smooth operations.

For example, we hope to visit Niebla and Valdivia, Chile tomorrow. There are no piers for a larger ship and thus such a visit would not be possible without the experienced Expedition Team and our trusty Zodiacs. Niebla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Valdivia was Spain’s ‘Second City’ when they began to colonize the area centuries ago, so we are all very much looking forward to seeing these unique sights in a location that is somewhat difficult to reach by sea.

A relatively brief stop at Silver Explorer’s traditional but always fun Afternoon Tea allowed me to continue learning more about the quite varied and interesting backgrounds of our guests who are visiting from more than one dozen countries around the world. It’s a great chance to take a break, get a snack, answer questions or simply chat and watch the sea birds fly right by the windows.

Our final, formal presentation of the day titled ‘Birds are Fowl: The Land Birds of Chile’ was given by Shoshanah Jacobs, one of our highly qualified biologists on board. As you might guess from the title, it was a wonderfully informative, comprehensive yet funny introduction to some of the birds that we hope to see ashore during our numerous shore excursions. ‘Sho’ has conducted bird research in many areas around the globe, which yields great insights into behavior and characteristics.

This full day continued with the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and dinner, one of only 2 or 3 times during our voyage where we pull out our more formal suits and dresses to mark a special occasion on board. Of course the best part is the chat with guests before the Captain says a few words as well as introducing his senior bridge and department officers.

All in all it was a typical day at sea aboard the Silver Explorer, filled with many optional opportunities to learn or to go another route and simply relax and watch the world go by as we cruise along the beautiful coast of Chile.