Day 5 |
Jun 17, 2012

At Sea en route to Jan Mayen 

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 68º9'48", W 12º42'05"
Weather: Overcast with some sunshine
Air Temperature: -1ºC
Pressure: 1015 hPa
Wind: 18 knots

For me, today started off perfectly – with great sightings of humpback whales and orcas (killer whales)!

It all began as I came up onto the Bridge for the start of my shift as whale-lookout. The fog that had been sitting low on the ocean had lifted, and the sun was starting to break through small gaps in the clouds. The seas were relatively calm with only some small chop and a few scattered whitecaps.

Suddenly, Stefan Kredel, one of our Geologists who was also on whale-watch with me, called out that he had seen a blow in the 1 o’clock position. With all eyes looking, the whale came to the surface and then went for a dive and showing us its large fluke – thereby verifying that this was, indeed, a humpback whale.

As we were waiting for the whale to resurface from its dive, I spotted a group of 5 – 6 smaller blows in the distance, about 1 – 2 miles away. These blows were significantly smaller in size, and clustered tightly together – indicating a small pod of orcas. As the ship approached, we were able to verify a group of about 5 orcas, including one large male with a very large 2m tall dorsal fin.

Within a few minutes we had made the announcement throughout the ship and had the Expedition Team out on all decks waiting for the guests to gather outside in the chilly Arctic winds. With so many eyes looking out, it was easy to keep an eye on the progress of the whales.

Although the orcas swam past quite quickly and disappeared behind the ship, the humpback continued surfacing near the ship – offering us great views. What a great start to the day.

Earlier, at 10am, Luqui Bernacchi, our Glaciologist and Birder, gave a lecture entitled “Birds of the Voyage”. During this lecture Luqui introduced the guests to the many different birds, mainly seabirds that we were likely to see during this voyage through the Arctic.

Then, after lunch at 2pm, Robin West, our Expedition Leader, gave the AECO Briefing to all the guests. This is a mandatory briefing for all guests and crew that outlines the rules and regulations of operating in the sensitive Arctic region.

There was a lull in activities until 5pm, when we conducted what we call the ‘Biosecurity Check’. This is a process required by AECO and implemented by us to prevent the introduction of pest plants into the Arctic region. It requires every single guest to bring down all outerwear clothing (e.g. jackets, glove, boots, hats) for inspection. We, the Expedition Team, carry out the inspection and vacuum anything that seems suspect.

The last event of the day was our standard Recap & Briefing. Robin told us about our plans for Jan Mayen for tomorrow. I really love this destination and am personally looking forward to another great landing there. Robin was followed by some of the expedition members talking on a range of topics – Stefan (Geologist) talked about what defines the Arctic Circle, Kara Weller (Biologist) talked about the different seals we were most likely to see in Svalbard, and Peter Damisch (Historian) talked a bit about the history of Husavik, Iceland.

So…it is off to bed now, hoping for good sea and weather conditions so that the landing at Jan Mayen (which can be very unpredictable and rough) can go ahead without a hitch!