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Day 2 |
Dec 13, 2011

At sea, sailing across the Drake Passage for the Antarctic Peninsula

By Liz Bradfield, Naturalist

Co-ordinates: S 57º13’53”, W 64º36’38” and heading south
Weather: 20 kts wind, hazy
Air Temperature: 6.5º C and dropping

After carefully preparing my stateroom for rough seas, it was a pleasure to wake up in the infamous Drake Passage well rested and un-tossed. We did roll gently through the night, but the sea was on our quarter, not our beam, and it seemed to lull me more than anything.

Perhaps the best part of the day was stepping out on deck and meeting the eye of a wandering albatross. All day, as we approached the Antarctic Convergence, these great soarers would glide across our boat, skidding the waves. We saw all age classes, from dark, mottled juveniles to nearly all-white adults.

At home in the air as they appear, it’s hard to believe that the younger birds we saw might not have touched land for up to four years. Giant petrels (both northern and southern) hugged the ship, too, as did the beautifully speckled cape petrels and a surprising number of blue petrels.

We could feel the Antarctic Convergence dropping the temperature bit by bit, fogging the air, that huge surge of current sweeping around the Southern Ocean and isolating Antarctica from the lands and seas to its north. We will cross it sometime tonight, and I’ll be sure to try and be sensitive to the bump and to begin looking for the birds that prefer the cooler waters to its south.

I had a lovely conversation on the back deck with a couple from France who were marveling at the small Wilson’s storm petrels pattering over our stern wake. Such a small bird! Such big seas! Such a huge migration around the bowl of the Atlantic Ocean!

The day passed like this, lectures to deepen our knowledge of what we’re traveling through and toward, delicious meals, conversation. The big swells were significant, but not jerky. All the same, we decided to put off our Zodiac and other briefings until tomorrow.

In the evening, we all dressed up a bit and gathered for the Captain’s welcome cocktail party. Champagne toasts, delicious bites of food, and an eager view to our days ahead in Antarctica… truly, the voyage has begun.

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