Day 2 |
Dec 22, 2009

At Sea, En Route To Falkland Islands

By Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates at noon: 53°40’S, 64°38’W

Weather: Some wind, slight swell, blue skies and sunshine

I enjoyed a lie-in this morning, always much appreciated after embarkation day. Breakfast was quiet as our guests also took it easy in their suites. The day’s first event was scheduled for 10am in The Theatre and this was a mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) and Zodiac briefing combined. Our Expedition Leader, Conrad Combrink, explained to us in full the environmental operating procedures we follow in Antarctic regions and how we make our Zodiac landings and cruises as comfortable and safe as possible. Christian and Peter ably demonstrated for us how to wear the Zodiac life vests correctly, and questions about rubber boots and clothing layers were satisfactorily answered.

After that it was time to go out on deck and enjoy the fine weather and seabirds following the ship.  We could see giant petrels and wandering albatross gliding on the breeze as well as great shearwaters and our naturalists were out in force to help us make identifications for our photos!  We were lucky enough to spot whale blows while we were outside, soon confirmed by Rich as fin whales (second only in size to the blue whale), though they did not linger long.  They attracted a large number of Antarctic prions, an added bonus.

The Restaurant was quiet when I arrived for lunch, with many guests still out on deck wildlife-spotting and a few (unfortunately) confined to their suites by seasickness. However, those of us who made it to lunch – including me - did it full justice whilst enjoying the sight of fin whale blows gradually receding into the distance.

Time for a short siesta, then I headed up to The Theatre to set up for my talk – “The History of the Falkland Islands.” This was surprisingly well-attended, so our guests were obviously excited at the prospect of making our first landing tomorrow at West Point and Saunders Islands. I told of the discovery of the Falkland Islands, the first settlers (neither Spanish/Argentinean nor British, but French!), sheep farming, the capital Stanley and the remote Camp areas.  Of greatest interest to most were the causes of the 1982 Falklands Conflict and the unfolding of the war itself.  Finally, I touched on the Falklands in the 21st century, now a “squidocracy” depending on fishing licenses and tourism rather than sheep. 

After my talk I somewhat guiltily sneaked into the Panorama Lounge around 4.30pm for an indulgent sandwich or two and a cookie from the afternoon tea buffet! This gave me the opportunity to chat with guests who had had the same good idea.

At 5pm many of us gathered again in The Theatre for a briefing on tomorrow’s landing sites (West Point and Saunders Islands) by our Expedition Leader. Conrad showed us maps and schedules to give us an idea of activities and timings – the highlights definitely being close-up views of black-browed albatross and rock hopper penguins feeding chicks on their nests. Tomorrow provides us with a hiking opportunity and a chance to see beautiful Falkland vistas as well as High Tea Kelper style. After the briefing, Rich summarized various seabird and whale sightings of the day and Claudia talked on seabirds’ dynamic soaring patterns, helping us to understand how they glide over the waves so easily without beating their wings.

I retired to my stateroom to get ready for the “casually elegant” Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party at 7pm, at which Captain Peter Stahlberg introduced himself and officially welcomed us on board the Prince Albert II. Then we enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Dinner, with excellent food and good company as well as fantastic sunset views from The Restaurant windows. I joined some guests in the Panorama Lounge for a nightcap before getting a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s Falkland adventure.