Day 5 |
Feb 13, 2009

Scotia Sea, En Route To South Georgia

By David Munro, Geographer

Low cloud base, clearing to sunshine; temperature rising to 8.6o C at noon

This morning we rose at leisure with the prospect of a day crossing the Scotia Sea en route from Stanley in the Falkland Islands to South Georgia. By 8.00am, the charts told us that we were crossing the Falkland Trough, which falls to a depth of 2,500 meters before rising again in the North Scotia Ridge. Visibility was good, and the clouds eventually cleared to leave us with a blue sky by about 11.30am. As the sun began to shine, the air temperature rose from 7.2o C to 8.6o C with a wind speed of about 18 knots.

At noon, Captain Peter told us that we were 400 miles from South Georgia and that by 4.00pm we would be half way to South Georgia. We sailed southwestwards, following 101o at an average speed of about 14 knots with the barometer rising - a sign of good weather.

Out on deck, we were mesmerized by Wandering albatrosses following the ship. For those lucky enough to be there at the right time, there were sightings of Black-browed albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Black-bellied storm petrel, Wilson's petrel and the Soft-plumed petrel. The keen-eyed also spotted one King penguin, a Macaroni penguin and a fur seal.

The chart suggested we might cross the Polar Convergence at about 4.00pm but is was not until 6.30pm that the Captain was able to report a drop in sea surface temperature of 2 degrees centigrade from 6o C to 4o C. Ahead of us we saw a bank of fog approaching, a sure sign of the meeting of warm and cold air and water.

Throughout the day we enjoyed a diverse program of informative talks and seminars. In the morning, naturalist Heidrun gave her talk in German about the kinds of seals we would encounter during our voyage, and ornithologist Chris told us about “Seabirds of the Southern Ocean”. In the afternoon, Peter gave the first part of his presentation on the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton entitled “Shackleton - by Endurance we Conquer” and the ship's photographer Richard Sidey shared some “Tips and Tricks for better Photographs in Antarctica”. For those interested in wine, Head Sommelier Vanja gave a seminar in the Panorama Lounge and the evening recap included items on the Antarctic Convergence from Claudia and Berenice and on present-day whaling issues from Andrew. Peter and Heidrun, with the aid of a rope, also demonstrated the wingspan of the various birds we had seen as we made our crossing of the Scotia Sea. We sat down to a fine dinner and recalled our good fortune in experiencing fine weather and good bird sightings as we sailed southwestwards towards South Georgia with eager anticipation.