Day 16 |
Aug 16, 2012

At sea, en route to Murmansk 

By Rich Pagen, Conservation Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 72º 11' 57", E 36º 19' 37"
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 5ºC
Pressure: 1025 hPa
Wind: 10-15 knots

After a rather exciting night of singing in the Panorama Lounge last night, I wasn’t expecting to be an early riser this morning. But the sky was relatively bright compared to past days, and the thought of sitting up in the Observation Lounge with a cup of coffee reading the news was difficult to resist. Northern fulmars circled past the windows as I caught up on what the world has been up to for the past week, ever since we headed north out of the White Sea and into high latitudes where satellite internet coverage is nonexistent.

The wind was rather light outside, but the air still very fresh. A few laps on the outer decks was the perfect way to wake up before heading into The Theatre for a presentation by Expedition Leader Robin West about the history of the ship that has been our home for the past several weeks: Silver Explorer. Robin took us from its construction in 1989, to its early stint as a passenger ship in the Baltic Sea, through to 2008, when Silversea launched its inaugural cruise with the ship, after conducting a major refit in dry dock. Robin told us the story of working to prepare the ship, and showed amazing before and after shots to show the changes and improvements that were made to the ship following its purchase by Silversea.

This was immediately followed by a question and answer session about the ship, hosted by Expedition Leader Robin West and a panel that included Captain Adam Boczek, Chief Engineer Zdravko Simeonov, and Hotel Director Fabien Leconte. This was a rare opportunity to find out everything we wanted to know about ship operations, including the making and storage of fresh water, ordering and storing provisions, and dealing with severe storms while out at sea. We appreciated the opportunity to hear from the department heads directly, and really gained a better idea about everything that goes into running a ship and operation such as this.

I headed to lunch early, catching up with some guests who found out at the table that they lived only a few miles from one another back in eastern Canada. Following lunch, I stopped into The Library where Assistant Expedition Leader Daniil Elterman was chatting with guests about future cruises and itineraries.

Then I joined Marine Biologist Michaela Mayer in The Theatre for her presentation detailing her experiences conducting polar research. With her sharp wit well tuned as always, Michaela told some fascinating stories about the ins and outs of working on research projects both on land and aboard research ships, in challenging and remote high latitude locations like Antarctica and the Arctic.

During mid-afternoon, I was faced with the decision whether to head outside and watch fulmars and kittiwakes following in our wake, or to take a nap. I decided that both were equally important, and woke up just in time to join Marine Biologist Michaela Mayer in the Panorama Lounge for her take on Afternoon Tea Team Trivia. Michaela had everyone second-guessing his or her answers by making “A” the correct multiple-choice answer for every question!

I then joined Biologist Kara Weller in The Theatre for a talk entitled, “Life in the Cold”, during which Kara looked at the many strategies that different types of animals utilize to survive the low temperatures that are the norm in this part of the world.

Recap & Briefing took on a different vibe tonight, as we had the opportunity to hear from Alexander Untila, one of the Russian bear guides who joined us on this expedition to Franz Josef Land. With some language interpretation assistance from Daniil, Alexander told the riveting story of his participation in an expedition a few years ago that discovered the remains of an early Russian expedition to Franz Josef Land, which went missing about a hundred years earlier. It was a fascinating adventure, and we really appreciated Alexander’s passion for this remote part of Russia.

Following dinner, many of us headed up to the Panorama Lounge for a second round of Liar’s Club. This time, four guests were the liars/”truth tellers”, and the definitions and roundabout stories were phenomenal. We laughed heartily as each panel member gave us their expert opinion on the words.