Day 9 |
Jan 11, 2012

Drake Passage

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 58 45 10 S, 62 42 59W
Weather: A dull windy morning brightening to a lovely sunny afternoon with a decreasing wind
Air Temperature: 4C
Pressure: 988hPa
Wind: NW 45 mph

There were not that many guests about as I made my way to breakfast in The Restaurant, but as it had been a bumpy night, it was not too surprising. As I left, it was a little busier since many had a lie-in on this day at sea.

There was still plenty to do starting with the first lecture of the day which was Robin Aiello’s talk about her time leading an Antarctic diving expedition on the Ross Sea. She showed us the work she had been doing with her team and some of their discoveries as well as describing life camping on the ice with many different tales.

I was next up to lecture in late morning talking about the Tubenoses. This amazing family of seabirds ranges from the tiny Storm Petrels up to the Wandering Albatross, the largest seabird of them all. What was nice, that as well as looking at my photographs as I talked about each species it was possible to see them from the windows of The Theatre or from the guest suites. At least two different Wandering Albatross were playing on the updrafts around the ship and a small group of Cape Petrels seemed to be seeing how many times they could fly around the ship as they were present all day.

After a relaxed lunch in The Restaurant where the seabirds could be easily from the big windows seen, it was time for Peter’s talk about Charcot, one of the early explorers, or as Peter puts it: ‘a Polar Gentleman’. He talked about the financing and setting up of the two expeditions he led and how he covered a large part of Antarctica that we had recently been privileged to visit. He also talked about the excellent dining on his expeditions- so we had been following in his footsteps!

During mid-afternoon there was a lot of seabird activity following the ship. These windy days bring out the best in these species with albatrosses, petrels both large and small coming up close to the stern of the ship before shearing away in the wind again. It was a good photo opportunity that was taken by many during the day.

The last activity of the afternoon was the final Recap & Briefing of the voyage. Robin, our Expedition Leader, started off by summarizing what was happening tomorrow as far as weather and arrival times were concerned before the Expedition Team gave us some extra insights into what we had seen on our voyage. Franz began with a look at the breeding biology of the Gentoo Penguins we had seen yesterday and followed this with a summary of what species we had seen and a look at the origin of some of the bird family names such as Petrel, Penguin and Albatross. Robin Aiello followed with some sound recordings made of the noises some of the seals and whales make underwater – a most amazing musical collection of sounds. Juan then came up to talk about continental drift and how the continents were formed over millions of year and finished his section with an alternative version of this theory. Sho and Uli came up to talk about the Beaufort Scale of wind and its effects on the sea and us before Peter finished off with a humorous clip about the ‘Great Antarctic Chicken’. A fine way to end the day with enough time to get ready for the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party held in The Theatre in the early evening.

After days of everyone wearing parkas it always amazes me to see the elegance and style that transforms The Theatre on these evenings. Following the cocktail party it was time for the Captain’s Farewell Dinner, which is always a special night on board.

So ended a day at sea that had plenty to do for those who wanted to keep busy and a nice relaxed day for those who wanted to do a little less.