Day 10 |
Sep 17, 2013

Labrador Sea, en route to Newfoundland

By Chris Cutler, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 53° 27’ N – 53 ° 38’ W
Weather: Sunny, scattered high clouds
Air temperature: 7°C, 45°F
Wind: 6 knots

Throughout the day Silver Explorer progressed easily across the Labrador Sea, continuing south-westerly toward Newfoundland. The day began with beautiful conditions that remained unchanged with seas at 2-3 meters, sunshine, and a view beyond the horizon. Early on, the first greater shearwaters of the trip followed in our wake and a small group of white-sided dolphins passed by.

Archaeologist Colleen Batey presented a lecture entitled “An Expansion Too Far?” According to the Vinland Sagas, Greenlandic Norse traveled to the island of Newfoundland where they established a community. Material evidence from L’Anse aux Meadows supports the notion that the Norse arrived in the New World five hundred years before Columbus. Colleen provided insights into contact that had been made between the Norse and native peoples to the far north in what was a very interesting lecture.

Geologist Stefan Kredel delivered “Plate Tectonics – a nearly all explaining theory”. He discussed how the “unbelievable” theory of plate tectonics was proposed by Alfred Wegner and how subsequent research vindicated the once vilified scientist. Stefan elucidated the remarkable processes involved in the movements of the plates, including ophiolite formation, whereby oceanic crust is thrust up onto the earth’s surface.

Ornithologist Franz Barlein presented “Living in the Cold”, a fascinating talk about how birds adapt to polar conditions. He discussed the ways in which birds utilize their feathers for insulation and how physiological adjustments allow birds to withstand seemingly lethal thermal conditions.

Straight after Franz’s talk, Expedition Leader Kara Weller made the call, “Whales!” The officers slowed the ship and we spent a good hour-plus amidst dozens of whales, both humpback and fin, feeding close together and a pod of white-beaked dolphins that came to the bow twice. Groups of whales swam very close to the ship and the paparazzi went wild. One humpback flipped over and slapped its tail on the surface. As we thrilled at this cetacean extravaganza, or what Kara called “whale soup”, fulmars zoomed by, as did the odd sooty shearwater, and our first Northern gannet of the trip made an appearance. It’s likely we were in an area rich in whale food, zooplankton and small fish, where nutrients were being “up-welled” from below.

Several seasoned Silversea travelers received accolades at the Venetian Society cocktail party where we compared notes on what had been a great day at sea.