Day 2 |
Dec 23, 2011

South Atlantic en route Falkland Islands 

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

Co-ordinates: 54o 10’ S, 062o 00’ W
Weather: Overcast with long rolling seas
Air Temperature: 6.2o C / 43 o F
Pressure: 1,012 HPa
Wind: 35 km / hour

Last night was quite calm and almost everyone got a good night’s sleep after traveling to join the ship in Ushuaia, Argentina. It was a bit breezy during our departure and thus we expected the waves to build up overnight.

Imagine my surprise in the morning when I looked outside to discover that we were surrounded by fairly large waves but with relatively long distances between each crest. As a result, the Silver Explorer, with the assistance of ship stabilizers on each side, was riding smoothly up one side of a wave and down the other. In addition, the wind from behind has been giving us a push to help our progress towards our destination for tomorrow: Stanley, capital city of the Falkland Islands, but a ‘city’ with a population of only about 2,600 people.

Today was a day to spend some time on the back deck and simply marvel at the soaring albatross as they fly so gracefully behind the ship. They actually extract energy from the ship by utilizing the air flow around our vessel to augment their flight time. The net result is the ability to fly farther without ‘flapping’, thus increasing their flying range with reduced requirements for food intake – an evolutionary advantage that they have honed over quite a long period of time. In addition, our ship’s propellers stir up the ocean and this agitation also brings food up to the ocean’s surface where all sea birds have an increased ability to feed with lower effort, another significant advantage.

Our “at-sea” lecture program also started up this morning. By pure coincidence I have the privilege of writing the voyage journal log today as well as giving the first presentation titled “Falkland Islands: Tale of Intrigue and Tail of Sheep”. It’s a bit of fun, which is perfectly timed in anticipation of our beginning of shore operations tomorrow. The Falkland Islands just about have it all from a historical perspective: piracy, dispute, conflict and sheep. There are so many interesting stories about the motivations and emotions of the early settlers that it is easy to describe the contentious history that has surrounded this unique location in the Southern Atlantic. The Theatre was full with guests who had many great questions, not just about the past but also the plans for the future.

Next up in The Theatre was Franz Bairlein, our expert onboard ornithologist. He presented “The Birds of the Voyage” which provided a comprehensive overview regarding the many different species that we may have the opportunity to encounter throughout our voyage. This includes not just the many species of penguins in both the Falklands and Antarctica, but also sea birds like the petrels or the many land birds. The latter are especially common in the Falklands, particularly now that so many areas have been protected. The Falkland Islanders have made a significant investment in ecological tourism and it is one of the few locations in the world where bird populations and diversity continue to rise.

After a nice lunch observing the large waves roll harmlessly and effortlessly by The Restaurant windows, Robin West, our Expedition Leader, provided a review of Silver Explorer’s Zodiac operations. These vital craft allow us to do what most other ships can’t: go in to explore remote areas filled with exotic beauty and unusual species of life that are hidden away. The safety guidelines are quite straightforward, and in almost no time, all the procedures had been covered and questions answered. Then Robin took the opportunity to brief everyone on our plans for Stanley tomorrow. Due to the upcoming holiday the ship has scheduled some additional time in town, as we understand there are going to be a variety of special events that should be fun.

Soon after this portion of a full day, Richard Sidey, our professional onboard videographer and photographer, gave a presentation titled “Photography Basics”. This superb lecture provides an overview of how to get the most out of your camera regardless of conditions. Richard is world famous in this field and always provides an outstanding and sometimes funny perspective on the many options that can turn otherwise ordinary holiday shots into something extraordinary.

Later on, in the early evening, I had a chance to chat with a family from the United States during the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party. I do love the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their backgrounds. In this case they were sailors and boaters just as I have been for the past 40+ years, including 20 years teaching in that field. In addition, the grandchildren are majors in history, which, of course, is directly in my field of interest. All in all a great day at sea meeting new friends and having the opportunity to learn. I could not have asked for a better day.