Day 8 |
Mar 04, 2009

At Sea

By Chris Collins, Ornithologist & Lecturer

Co-ordinates: 47 degrees 42' S, 075 degrees 35' W

Weather: Predominantly cloudy skies with 20-knot winds for most of the day

At 9:00 a.m., the Captain announced over the ship's public address system that last night's storm was considerably worse than anticipated, and a decision had been made to return south to the fjords to seek shelter. This decision was prompted, in part, due to a door being blown open at the front of the ship by the force of the seas in the early-morning hours. The Captain added that whilst this had been dealt with very quickly by the crew, it nonetheless led to approximately two tonnes of seawater entering the ship.

The Captain then explained that, as a result, the Prince Albert II fell behind schedule, and he was in discussions with Silversea's Head Office to decide what should be done.

Half an hour later, Marine Mammal Specialist Andrew Marshall began the lecture programme with a talk entitled "Whales and Dolphins of the Chilean Fjords". During his lecture, Andrew discussed the evolution, adaptation, behaviour and migration of these marine mammals.

At 11 a.m., the ship's Geologist, Chris Edwards, gave a talk on tides and tsunamis. This included information about the largest earthquake that had ever been recorded. Its epicentre occurred offshore from the Chilean town of Valdivia. Chris explained that the force of the quake resulted in a huge tsunami that crossed the Pacific, causing devastation to parts of Hawaii and a number of other Pacific Islands before it eventually reached Japan.

After lunch, I gave a talk on the birds of Central Chile, describing some of the species we might encounter during the cruise northward towards Valparaiso. The lecture also included information about the major declines in many albatross populations as a result of long-line fishing, which resulted in an estimated 100,000 albatrosses being killed each year.

By late-afternoon, the weather had moderated considerably, and several guests joined Claudia Holgate and I on the aft deck to look for seabirds and cetaceans. There were a number of different birds to be seen, including three species of albatross; the wandering, black-browed and shy. Whilst it is hard to be sure as to where an individual bird species originated, the shy albatrosses were of the species known as Salvin's albatross, which breeds in the Bounty Islands south east of New Zealand. It is also thought that at least some of the wandering albatrosses came from that same general part of the world.

Other birds to be seen included white-chinned petrel, sooty shearwater and pink-footed shearwater. However, the highlight of the afternoon for those with a general interest in wildlife was surely the number of whales we saw blowing, with upwards of twenty 'spouts' seen over the course of an hour and a half. The wind and swell made it difficult to see many of the marine mammals and be certain of their species, although it appeared that both fin and sperm whales were present.

Prior to the nightly recap, the Captain came to the Theatre and provided an update on the plans for the rest of the voyage. He explained that the ship would continue on to Valparaiso and to ensure we arrived there on schedule, the landing on Chiloe Island would, unfortunately, have to be cancelled.

The Expedition Leader, Ignacio Rojas, then said a few words about the schedule changes, followed by brief presentations from Chris Edwards, Andrew Marshall, Claudia Holgate and me.

Claudia and I gave a joint presentation explaining that during the morning, two Wilson's storm petrels and a sooty shearwater had been found. Apparently, they had become disorientated during the previous night's storm and landed on the ship. A short video of their release was shown, including the sooty shearwater attacking one of Claudia's fingers; a sure sign that it was none-the-worse for the experience!