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Day 10 - February 18, 2010 - Drake Passage

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 60° 11.8’S – 63° 34.2’W (Noon position)
Weather: overcast skies
Seas: calm
Temperature: 1° C

We awoke to the Drake Lake – an incredibly calm day back out once again in the Drake Passage. Fearing the worst but hoping for the best we had expected at least slightly if not significantly heavier seas and more rocking and rolling of the ship than we actually encountered this morning. Instead – wonderful calm seas with only the barest of motions to remind us we were actually on a moving ship is what we encountered. It was wonderful to have such calm conditions.

The lack of wind did however result in a lack of bird life. A few black-browed albatrosses were spotted, as well as some Wilson’s storm petrels and some soft-plumaged petrels, but it seemed as if wildlife would be sparse today, and indeed bird life did stay rather thin.

Gennadi gave the first talk of the day on Antarctic Sciences. His lecture was a fascinating talk that delved into the main issues of Antarctic science, including climate change, sun-earth connections and space weather. Gennadi spent a lot of time living and working at the Ukrainian station Vernadsky that we visited on this trip, and he also told us about his time spent there and what day-to-day life was like in this remote outpost of the planet.

Towards the end of his talk however a group of fin whales were sighted and the lecture was interrupted for this unique opportunity to see a species of whale we had not yet encountered on this trip. 3 huge fin whales (the second largest creatures on the planet) were swimming in slow circles feeding on their prey in the middle of the Drake Passage. They moved slowly at the surface of the water showing us their broad dark grey backs and very large and sharply edged dorsal fins. A few hourglass dolphins appeared at the same time and we had a nice view of the white patch on their sides shaped like an hourglass that gives them their name. They moved very quickly zigzagging back and forth in front of the ship’s bow creating white plumes of spray in their wake. It was a wonderful sighting.

Shortly after leaving the whales behind I gave a talk on whales of the southern ocean, which could not have been more appropriately timed.

The afternoon continued with a talk on Shackleton by our historian Peter and a wine tasting seminar from our head sommelier Predrag.

After another Recap & Briefing from the Expedition Team it was time for yet another wonderful dinner and the end to a calm and relaxing day.

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