Day 9 |
Dec 20, 2011

At sea, Drake Passage

By Uli Kunz – Oceanographer and Zodiac-Driver

Position: 58°49’ S, 64°25’ W
Air temperature: 5.6 °C, 42.0 °F
Water temperature: 3 °C, 33.8 °F
Air pressure: 989 hPa
Wind speed: 50 km/h

We can't complain about the weather, our guests were doing a great job being in charge of it! In the morning, the sun was shining and the infamous Drake Passage did not show a single sign of strong winds or high swells that we normally encounter in that part of the world. Welcome to the Drake Lake!

After breakfast, marine biologist Kara Weller presented a lecture about the whales of the Southern Ocean, their evolution and behaviour and their distinguishing marks. So far, we have seen Minke and Humpback whales, but we are crossing a vast part of the ocean now on our way back to Ushuaia, so there is always a chance to see more species.

Just before lunch I presented my talk about the 'Legends of the Deep', a general overview on our oceans. During a virtual dive throughout the sea, I explained some basic mechanisms of life in the oceans and gave examples of mysterious organisms that we still have very little knowledge about. Doing research under water is very difficult because of the limited visibility. We know the far side of the moon much better than any place on the sea floor! Even the history of deep-sea exploration is not commonly known. Everybody knows that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon in 1969, but who knows that there are people on the planet who have seen the deepest place on Earth, the sea floor in the Marianas Trench at a depth of 11,000 meters (36,000 ft.), with their own eyes?
The oceans are the largest biosphere on our planet and there are still so many secrets under water that are waiting to be discovered...

Today all our guests returned their rubber boots to the mud room, where they are stored in between landings, so it was our turn now to clean and store them for our next cruise. Our last landing was at Bailey Head at Deception Island to visit one of the largest Chinstrap penguin rookeries in Antarctica, so we had to wash a considerable amount of penguin guano off the boots.

After lunch, naps were certainly not an option. Peter Damisch, our historian, gave an informative lecture on the French explorer Charcot. Peter focuses on the interesting stories and strange events when he lectures and today’s story was no exception.

Later in the afternoon, we invited all our guests into The Theatre for another Recap & Briefing. Expedition Leader Robin West showed us the weather forecast for the next day, which was even better than the one we had for today. We got new information from our ornithologist Franz Bairlein about the five species of penguins we were lucky to see in Antarctica, glaciologist Luqui Bernacci presented a spectacular video of a giant wave created by a massive calving of a glacier and Shoshanah Jacobs and I talked about the Beaufort scale and seasickness and the various methods to cure it... You want to know the best way to prevent seasickness? Take a long walk in a forest.

It was time now for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party! To the music of our piano player Alfredo, Captain Alex Golubev invited most of the ship's crew on the stage in The Theatre, where they were greeted with loud applause by our guests to thank them for their amazing work as butler, housekeeper, cook, waiter, bartender, musician, engineer, sailor or officer.