Day 9 |
Feb 17, 2009

At Sea

By Heidrun Oberg, Ethologist/Ornithologist

8.00 position: 56° 16,4' S, 39° 37,9'W

Average speed: 12,8 knots

Weather: Fog, air temperature +4°C, and water temperature +4°C

After the marvelous days in South Georgia, we are on our way to Elephant Island. It is foggy outside, but the birdwatchers spotted some Wandering Albatrosses and a lot of different Petrels and Shearwaters.

We started the morning lecture series with Chris Edwards' presentation of “Carousels and Slides”. Chris described how the Falkland Islands, prior to the break-up of the great southern super-continent of Gondwanaland, were situated somewhere south-east of Africa. Large rivers would have transported sand south-eastwards from the central parts of southern Africa to the depositional area. The opening of the Atlantic took the Falkland Islands with South America and in the process rotated them 180°.

Conversely, South Georgia was once attached to the continental landmass of southern South America and has been bodily shunted eastwards to its present position during the development of the Scotia Sea. Rocks on the island are composed predominantly of turbidites, which were created during submarine landslides, derived from either a volcanic mountain chain or a continental landmass, and deposited into a narrow sea. Subsequent major Earth movements disrupted the strata into the gigantic fold structures now visible. The presence of granite on the island attests to its continental rather than oceanic origin.

I presented the second lecture entitled “Antarctica, a Continent of Superlatives” in German for our guests from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I discussed icebergs, the immense ice shield, and the history of whalers, sealers and early discoverers. I also introduced some of the historical sites, modern scientific stations and the plants and animals we hope to see.

After lunch, our Executive Chef Sean Emslie gave a culinary demonstration for cooking Leek and smoked Eel Fishcakes. Delicious!

This afternoon Claudia Holgate, our onboard environmentalist, gave a lecture entitled “Ice, Wind and Waves: an Introduction to Antarctica and Its Climate”. The talk gave a general introduction to Antarctica, its size and types of ice we expect to see. The climate systems of the world were also explained, which allowed us to understand the type of weather conditions to expect in the Antarctic. All of this was superbly illustrated with an extraordinary animation of the cloud and wind systems around the globe. A very general introduction to the ocean current was also put forward, explaining why the Drake Passage can be such a rough ocean passage to cross.

The last lecture from the marine biologist Andrew Marshall, entitled “Bohemothian Rhapsody”, showed us the life history and behaviour of the Humpback Whales. The humpback whale is used as the key example of the baleen whales we are likely to encounter in the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula. This lecture considers the evolution, physiology, phenotypical traits, adaptations and behaviour of these beautiful animals, as well as the unique feeding techniques that can be observed in polar waters.