Day 11 |
Jan 23, 2012

At sea

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist lecturer

Co-ordinates: 58º39’20”S, 47º01’43”W
Weather: overcast, rough seas, rain showers
Air Temperature: 1ºC

Today was our second day at sea en route from South Georgia to Elephant Island. We are following (in reverse) the route of the famous explorer Sir Shackleton. Lucky we are traveling in a luxury ship!! The seas have been pretty rough, with some swells reaching heights of at least 4m and winds over 30knots!

But we are making good time and are on track to reach Elephant Island on time in the morning tomorrow. There was plenty to do today – with lectures, the Antarctica biosecurity check and recap.

The first lecture of the day was from Uli Kunz, one of our marine biologists. Uli’s talk, entitled “To Live and Dive in the Cold”, was an overview of the many different adaptations that marine animals have that enable them to live in the freezing Antarctic waters. He explained how marine mammals such as seals and whales avoid getting decompression sickness (the bends) and how they manage to stay warm, even in waters below zero.

Hans-Peter Reinthaler, our botanist, was next up to speak at 11:30am. His lecture, “Biodiversity – Counting Life on Earth”, started with a definition of what a species is, and then continued to give an overview of biodiversity and explained why it is so very important to mankind and the Earth’s survival.

After lunch the Expedition Team gathered in the Mud Room with vacuum cleaners, waiting for the guests to arrive with all their outdoor gear for inspection. The Biosecurity Check is very important to ensure that plants are not accidentally introduced into Antarctica through the transport of seeds. So every piece of outdoor clothing is carefully looked over by the Team and if there are any grass seeds or dirt present they are vacuum cleaned. Even the boots were individually scrubbed to remove any sign of guano.

During the Biosecurity Check, Juan Carlos Restrepo, our Geologist, showed a documentary in The Theatre called “Secrets Beneath the Ice”. This movie told the story of the ANDRILL drilling probe that has been used to core down into the Antarctic seafloor. From the sediment core that they have been able to retrieve, scientists have been able to look back into the past to ‘read’ the changes in climate over millions of years.

Later in the afternoon, after Tea Time, I gave my second lecture of the voyage – this one was about the four months that I spent as a scientific diver as part of a team of six that lived and worked on the Ross Sea side of Antarctica. Our research was to collect and document jellyfish that lived under the 5m thick sea ice in the area.

Finally, the last activity of the day was the Recap & Briefing, when Robin West, our Expedition Leader, spoke about our plans for tomorrow – a Zodiac tour at Point Wild, Elephant Island. Although the seas are expected to be good and calm, the temperature is predicted to be about -3ºC – BRRR!! But Elephant Island is a highlight, since this is where 22 men survived many months living inside upside down lifeboats as they waited for Shackleton to return to rescue them. In all the years I have been working in Antarctica, I have yet to actually land on this point – it is usually too rough. SO let’s hope that tomorrow will allow a landing!!!