Day 10 |
Dec 04, 2011

En route from South Georgia Island to Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands 

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

Co-ordinates: 56o 36’ S, 040o 50’ W
Weather: High overcast with light winds and moderate seas
Air Temperature: 0o C / 32 o F
Pressure: 1,012 HPa
Wind: 450 km / hour

Our routine on board is just a little bit slower today when compared to the past three fabulous days in South Georgia Island where we literally had the wonderful privilege to directly observe the behavior of more than one million King Penguins in three different primary locations. This morning the Expedition Team was commenting how lucky we had been with the weather yesterday afternoon – the best that we have seen since February 2006. The bright sunshine and calm wind conditions at Gold Harbor gave us a marvelous afternoon with Elephant Seals, King Penguin Chicks and even a few Gentoo Penguins.

Today was a day to sleep in a bit, then have a nice breakfast before going up to The Theatre to begin our lecture and educational program for the day. First up this morning was an outstanding presentation by one of our onboard Marine Biologists, Michaela Mayer, titled “Sea Life Beneath the Surface”. She provided a great review of the food web and Antarctic organisms under the ocean’s surface in the cold Antarctic waters that we are visiting. The volume and variety of life in these harsh conditions is literally quite amazing. Michaela is a world expert on this subject, having previously worked as an Antarctic scientist and diver in these extremely cold waters that yield such an abundance of life.

Unfortunately, due to other Expedition Team duties, I had to miss the Cocktail demonstration hosted by Mike, our superbly knowledgeable and friendly Head Sommelier from the island nation of Mauritius. However, I spoke with some guests later on and they mentioned picking up a few useful tips for use back home.

After a nice lunch with guests, the Expedition Team hosted another ‘vacuuming party’, otherwise officially known as ‘Bio Security Checks’. This is a standard Silver Explorer procedure while en route from South Georgia Island to the Antarctic Peninsula. We are working hard on every voyage to ensure that we do not inadvertently transport seeds, mud, grass stems or any biological material to Antarctica as this might result in the introduction of non-native species. Fortunately both staff and guests fully understand and support this necessary function, which is also a bit of fun beyond the normal ‘day at sea’ routine.

During the Bio Security Checks I had a chance to twice screen the film “Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure’ that was showing for those guests who were waiting to conduct or had completed their checks. In my opinion, this documentary film directed by George Butler is the very best ever done regarding Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition and I’ve had the privilege of sailing south with many of the principals of the film during earlier voyages.

A Recap & Briefing was scheduled next to review our plans for tomorrow. However, in true expedition style, that timing went completely out the window when a large tabular iceberg appeared on the horizon in front of the ship, further welcoming us to the Antarctic. Previously the Expedition Team had been remarking how few icebergs we had seen in and around South Georgia Island this year. After the Expedition Leader made a change of schedule announcement, the Captain and bridge team conducted a complete circumnavigation of this mass of ice that was estimated at 1,000 x 300 meters and rising out of the water about 40 meters (with 7 – 9 times this height below the surface of the ocean. My colleague Luqui, our on board glaciologist, and I made a quick calculation that estimated the mass of this tabular iceberg at about 81 million metric tons. That seems like a lot of ice but is truly just a small sample of the masses of ice that will soon come into view as we reach the icy domain of the Antarctic.

Of course Recap & Briefing was only delayed, not canceled, so the Expedition Team still had the opportunity to expand on scientific topics that we encountered during our time in South Georgia Island, including Elephant Seal nasal mites!

Our final event before dinner on this busy but still slower day at sea, was a formal reception for our Venetian Society members. This organization is Silversea’s loyalty club for repeat guests. It’s always fun to mingle and chat with individuals from around the world as well as continuing to renew friendships. On this voyage I had earlier discovered that I had sailed with almost 20 guests from prior voyages on the Silver Explorer, including several guests who were visiting Antarctica for a second time or more!

Today was a great day of continued good weather and wonderful activities along with everyone continuing on the lookout for additional icebergs as we quickly approach the intriguing and mysterious Continent of Antarctica.