Day 16 |
Nov 27, 2009

At Sea En Route To Ushuaia

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist Lecturer

Weather: Overcast, occasional snow flurries and rough seas

Air Temperature: 2°C

Wind: 30 – 40 knots

It was a long and relatively sleepless night with the severe rocking of the ship. I woke up to find anything that I had failed to put on the floor before heading to bed, strewn over the room. It looked a total mess! Oh well, I have to start packing soon anyways!

Despite the rocking and rolling and lurching, the lecture program had to go on! It started at 10 am with Richard Kirchner who shared some of his incredible stories of life working as a carpenter in McMurdo Station, Antarctica. It was particularly interesting for me to hear him talk about his adventures because, as it turns out, we were in McMurdo during the same time. In fact, we figured out that it was probably him and his team that set up my field camp and built me my outhouse (for which I am eternally grateful!).

It was my turn to talk next. My lecture was entitled “Sea Monsters, Mermaids and Giants”. This is a fun talk looking at some of the most famous sea legends, tracing their roots, and posing some possibilities for what real-life creatures could have given rise to such stories.

I was very impressed that so many guests braved the sea conditions and actually came out from their suites to The Theatre, rather that remain in bed and watching my lecture on the TV. It was funny as a presenter on stage to look out at the audience and see an occasional person slide from one end to the other on the seats.

Lunch was entertaining with plates sliding to and fro. But by now most people had the hang of eating in rocking conditions – one hand for eating and the other for holding onto your wine glass!

During the afternoon I think nearly everyone took a nap, because as I wandered the decks, I couldn’t find a soul. No one! But by Afternoon Tea, guests had started to reappear. Our ornithologist, Anja Nordt, gave the final lecture of the day at 5pm, entitled “Fascinating Skuas”. Her knowledge of all aspects of this predatory bird was amazing. She told us all about their behaviour, breeding cycles, and migration habits. Her talk really made us appreciate these birds even more than before.

Although the seas seemed to have calmed a little bit, we were still rocking by the Recap & Briefing at 6.45pm. Robin West, our Expedition Leader, showed us the weather map of the Drake Passage and outlined the Captain’s great plan of sneaking up behind the huge storm that was crossing over, so that we would have the swell coming up from behind rather than from the beam. With this explanation, we better realized exactly how much worse the conditions could have been. As it was, some of the swells we were encountering were 10-12 metres! The Drake Passage in all its glory!!!