Day 5 |
Sep 20, 2012

At Sea en Route to Cape Verde Islands

By Olga Stavrakis, Anthropologist

Co-ordinates: S 18º59'08", W 22º40'21" at 8:18 AM
Weather: Sunny with light cloud cover

My early morning pleasure is taking tea in the Observation Lounge while watching the sunrise. This morning, it being a sea day, I missed sunrise, but the morning light shone silvery through a thin layer of clouds, illuminating a slightly choppy azure sea. The lounge was cool and crisp from the air conditioning but as I stepped outside, tea mug in hand, the pleasant humid warmth of the tropical sea air of the west Africa coast enveloped me.

Just after breakfast I attended a mandatory safety drill which covered the use of lifeboats. Safety is taken seriously on board and we are required to attend drills and training sessions at regular intervals to keep us absolutely current on operation of all safety equipment.

A day at sea can be extremely restful and one could opt to simply sit in a lounge chair in the sun on the upper deck. However, I find myself drawn to the lectures and activities which offer a wide range of opportunities to learn and enjoy the ship experience.

At 10 AM Stefan Kredel, Geologist, gave an excellent and very lively presentation on the geologic history of the continents, explaining clearly the mechanisms that cause the continents to drift apart, collide, or shear by each other. Africa, he pointed out, was one of the volcanically least active areas on Earth which accounts for some of its unique biological history.

One special highlight of the day was a delicious culinary demonstration by our Executive Chef, Janine Fourie, who, in a matter of 45 amazing minutes showed us how to make a superb three course dinner with appetizers and raised yeast rolls (called Rooster Koeks in South Africa) right on a barbecue grill.

To be sure, it takes some time to prepare the ingredients but what a way to impress one’s guests! The menu included roasted asparagus, mushrooms and vegetables for appetizers. The main courses included spicy Middle Eastern beef kofta and marinated South African lamb Sosaties roasted on skewers with apricots and onions. One of the joys of grilling is the sensory experience created by the heavenly fragrance of sizzling exotic spices.

The afternoon was also packed with interesting and fun activities. Kara Weller gave a fascinating presentation on African wildlife, showing some unusual animal and insect adaptations to extreme and changing environments. Africa has the greatest animal diversity of all the continents and Kara traced some of the unusual species to the geological stability of the African continent during the last 200 million years. She showed a number of rare endemic species, some of which evolved in one environment but had to readjust as climate change took place.

After a mind bending team trivia, Claire Allum presented a comprehensive history of the introduction of clothing into sub-Saharan Africa. Beginning with the North African rock art depicting figures in fibre loin cloths, she proceeded to show some exceptional examples of archaeological raffia cloth, early wool production and finally ended with the explosion in modern textiles which began in the early 1800’s. West African cloth has now evolved into an art form using unusual threads, colors, and symbols to communicate parables, concepts and ideas.

The day ended with a series of thought-provoking recaps and an introduction by Robin West, our Expedition Leader, to the Cape Verde Islands where we expect to dock early tomorrow morning.