Day 10 |
Dec 20, 2008

At Sea, Heading North

By Victoria Salem

Noon position: 5957’S, 06343’W

Weather & Sea conditions: Grey and overcast, 3 - 5m swells

Today we resumed our lecture program, starting off at 10am with Ornithologist, Chris Harbard’s, “From Mollymawks to Goonies.” This talk gave us all kinds of information about albatrosses, ranging from identification to lifestyle of these, the largest and longest-lived of sea birds.During the course of the day we were able to see a few black-browed and grey-headed albatross swooping round Prince Albert II.

At 11.30am Robin Aiello (Marine Biologist) spoke on “Survivors of Sub-Zero Waters – Gigantism and Antifreeze.” Robin has worked as a diver in Antarctica and was able to describe various species of invertebrates and fish living in the Southern Ocean, and how they have adapted to the extreme conditions they find themselves in; she told us of how these organisms have developed unique metabolisms, unusual traits and surprising chemical modifications, while taking us on a virtual tour of the marine life on Antarctica’s sea floor.

After lunch we heard from our naturalist, Rob Suisted.He gave us a talk entitled “Seals of the Southern Ocean,” in which he described these most extreme mammals on the planet.Seals may look cute and cuddly, but in fact have incredible physical and physiological adaptations to enable them to survive in these cold waters.Rob introduced the main species of seals to be seen in Antarctica, told us how to identify them and gave us some of their amazing life stories.This was especially interesting as we have been lucky enough to have seen most possible species of seal on this trip.

Next up was a Martini Seminar in the Panorama Lounge (5:15pm), with our Head Sommelier, Vanja.We learned about and sampled a whole range of martinis, which put us in an excellent frame of mind by the time the Expedition team started their evening recap and briefing session at 6.30pm!

Four lecturers spoke at Recap on a range of topics, both expected and unexpected.Robin (Marine Biologist) kicked off as usual; with some observations on the seabirds and penguins we’ve been viewing over the past 10 days and an explanation of how icebergs scour ocean floors.She was followed by Juan (Geologist), who gave us a concentrated summary of the processes of circulation of ocean currents, the most important of which are driven by Antarctic waters.After this Gennadi (Atmospheric Physicist) talked of relative pollution levels in the world, sharply contrasting nuclear contamination readings for Antarctica with studies carried out in the region of Chernobyl, shortly after the 1986 disaster there; he was able to give us some interesting examples of how radiation has affected the Ukrainian house-sparrow.Finally, Victoria (Historian) summarized for us the workings of the Antarctic Treaty System, explaining how this agreement between 28 countries regulates and controls the 10% of the earth’s surface that is owned by no-one – Antarctica.

Before dinner was served, Jarda (Assistant Expedition Leader) came forward to give us a disembarkation briefing, answering all of our questions on packing and preparing for our homeward journeys on December 22nd.But we still have one day on board to look forward to, with the continuation of our lecture series, culminating in a slide-show by our onboard photographer (Dominic) and the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner tomorrow evening.