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Day 2 - January 8, 2010 - Drake Passage En Route To Antarctic Peninsula

By Peter W. Damisch, Historian and General Naturalist

Coordinates:   57° 54' S, 063° 37’ W
Weather: Overcast with moderate seas
Air Temperature: + 5o C  (41o F)
Sea Temperature: + 4o C  (39o F)
Pressure: 998 Hpa
Wind: 30 Km / hour from Northwest

Woke up this morning with a spring in my step as we are heading back down to the Antarctic on my home away from home, the Prince Albert II. There is nothing better in the world than to know that I am going back to Antarctica, a place that I love which is always full of new sights, fresh emotions, re-discovered beauty and a touch of adventure.

All of these wonderful thoughts were swirling around my head as I grabbed my binoculars before breakfast to take a look off the stern of the ship to observe our flying friends who have begun to follow the ship by soaring in the winds that stream around our vessel. So far I’ve only had the opportunity to spot a few Cape Pintados and an albatross or two but these numbers will greatly increase tomorrow as we reach the nutrient rich waters after crossing the cold Antarctic Convergence, sometimes also referred to as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which is the largest flowing mass of water in the world. This is the biological boundary that separates many of the Antarctic species from the remainder of the world to create our 9th planet in the deep Southern Ocean. I eagerly anticipate the special opportunity to re-visit an ecological preserve that is literally unlike any other on Planet Earth, truly a special and unique location.

Now off to breakfast to mingle with guests from over one dozen countries from across the globe. I have already had the good fortune to meet new people from areas ranging from Australia / New Zealand, India, Brazil, Mexico, North America and Europe. Each has their own motivator for traveling sometimes halfway around the world to visit the Land of the Penguins, Whales and Seals. I always find it fascinating to learn why people select such a great voyage with Silversea as well as using every opportunity to learn from each person who and where they live as well as inquiring about other locations they have visited. It is a continuing joy for me to discover how this type of trip to the polar regions seems to attract individuals who are curious, inquisitive and very well traveled. It is sometimes a challenge to answer all of the questions that are asked but this process also ‘keeps me on my toes’ and ensures that each voyage is unique, different and special.

Next, each of us on the Expedition Team had the chance to stand up and give a short curriculum vitae regarding our background. I like to mention that this is my 40th year at sea as well as my authorship of a comprehensive 4,000 page history of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean before concluding with an inspiring quote from Ernest Shackleton regarding what one can see in the Antarctic.

As usual, the next item on the agenda was for Rich, our Expedition Leader, to cover the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO ) briefing, which reviews such items as code of conduct ashore and bio security along with guest safety issues in the associated review of our extensive Zodiac operations.

My busy day continued with a Welcome Aboard reception for people who are new to Silversea. Even after less that one day on board, everyone was remarking how they had already noticed what a significant improvement they had seen in service, food quality and staff in comparison with other cruise lines they had experienced.

After another superb lunch where I treated myself to two chocolate deserts, I took the opportunity to learn just a little bit more about how to be successful in Antarctic photography from our onboard professional photographer Kristine Hannon, who, once again, was able to provide everyone with some of those little ‘tricks’ that can make all of the difference. This type of knowledge is particularly important in the Antarctic as the vistas are so stunning and the penguins are so alluring that many guests return home with literally thousands of digital images.

I also sat in on Franz Bairlein’s presentation, which gave an introduction to birds that we will see during our voyage. This is another area where I always learn something new about some of the dozens of species that we encounter both at sea as well as during our landing opportunities. Franz is an absolute master in conveying the key points of identification.

There wasn’t much time left in the late afternoon and early evening before I ‘freshened up’ to attend Captain Stahlberg’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. With a British Antarctic Survey pin adorning my dress jacket I had a chance to again chat with both our new guests as well as members of Silversea’s Venetian Society of returning Silversea guests as we watched the Southern Ocean wash by, now that over half of our passage to the Antarctic Peninsula is complete.

Tonight we all dream of continued good weather and the exciting possibility of seeing our first glimpse of the Antarctic Continent late tomorrow as well as the occasional iceberg with a penguin or two frolicking in the water!

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