Day 6 |
Feb 14, 2009

At Sea, Between The Falkland Islands And South Georgia Island

By Peter W. Damisch, Historian & Naturalist

Noon Position: 53° 42'S, 040° 12'W

Weather: Fabulously brilliant sun all day with long ocean swells but virtually no whitecaps at sea. Air temperature + 4o C (39o F) and light wind speed 10 Nautical Miles / hour

Happy Valentine's Day! We continue to just love the expedition adventure that we have been experiencing!! The weather remains very favourable with relatively calm seas, although the temperature has dropped about 5o C since yesterday's crossing of the Antarctic Convergence, the cold polar current that circumnavigates the Continent. Passing over this 'dividing line' has effectively placed us in a completely new biological environment and we have very much been enjoying the arrival of many new species, including outlying Antarctic Fur Seals and Penguins who have come to welcome us to the outer waters surrounding beautiful South Georgia Island. Earlier in the morning, our eyes were also focused on the horizon to be rewarded just after midday with the sighting of our first icebergs of the voyage, followed later in the afternoon by the first views showing the craggy summits of mountainous South Georgia.

Of course, we are still blessed with an enormous variety of sea birds that continue to dip and soar in the wind behind and alongside the ship. Albatross, petrels and shearwaters are simply marvellous to watch, as these magnificent flying machines never seem to tire of riding the breezes hour after hour as our companions. Some of us did briefly discuss how marvellous it is to sail on board a vessel such as the Prince Albert II that has such high standards and strict, environmentally sensitive discharge protocols that prevent any interference with the albatross or other species. A nice variety of humpback and beaked whales also put in several appearances to those guests casually strolling the ship's outer decks in the bright sunshine.

As usual during our at sea days, there were also a wide range of outstanding presentations given by the Expedition Staff, covering a wide variety of topics; all intended to provide support and enrichment for our intended schedule at South Georgia. These eagerly awaited lectures included Part II of a theme initiated yesterday regarding one of the great leaders during the historic era of Antarctic Exploration. After being left on the edge of their seats on Day V with the 1914 - 1916 expedition trapped in the Antarctic ice, we all discovered the emotional fate of Shackleton's Endurance Expedition in a presentation titled 'Shackleton - Enduring Quest'.

This program was followed by an excellent introduction to the island of South Georgia titled 'South Georgia: Paradise in the South Atlantic'. This topic was given by David Monroe, co-founder of the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT). His outstanding presentation spanned many fascinating topics, including history, flora and fauna as well as some of the special environmental enhancement projects being supported by the non-profit SGHT.

Silversea's continuing commitment to high standards of environmental safety were further reinforced by a great briefing by Ignacio, our Expedition Leader, regarding the Code of Conduct for our upcoming visit to South Georgia Island. The discussion included important guidelines as well as Biological Security procedures. This presentation was immediately followed by a 'Vacuum Cleaning Party' which was done with great fun and much hilarity as we went through the procedures necessary to ensure boots, parkas and backpacks are clean of any potential contaminants before our highly anticipated chance to enjoy an island that has often been described as 'The Galapagos of the South' or 'The Alps of the South Atlantic'.

By this time, the glacier-covered mountain peaks of South Georgia were clearly in view and many people took the opportunity to go out on deck to observe both fur seals and penguins frolicking near the Prince Albert II before heading inside. We had a spectacular Valentine's Day dinner with many great stories from just about everyone on board about how they met their 'special someone'. We also discussed, with eager anticipation, our intended first landing tomorrow on beaches that the Expedition Team explained would be literally crowded with vast numbers of Antarctic Fur Seals, Elephant Seals and penguins.

We watched the sun go down and most of us took a moment to reflect on what a wonderful day this has been; full of new-found friends, great weather, and many new animal species as well as our first glimpse of the enchanting Island of South Georgia. We go to bed looking forward to the next few days on one of the most stunning and remote islands in the world.