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Day 16 - March 7, 2010 - Underway In The Drake Passage En Route Ushuaia, Argentina

By Peter W. Damisch (Historian, General Naturalist & Cartographer)

Coordinates: 59° 40' S, 064° 07’ W
Weather: Changeable between high overcast with good visibility to fog as we cross the Antarctic Convergence
Air Temperature: +2o C  (34o F)
Sea Temperature: +1o C  (33o F)
Pressure: 990 Hpa
Wind: 80 Km / hour

Today was a great day for relaxing just a bit after our outstanding prior 24 hours where we made 3 landings in the Antarctic. Everyone was buzzing about their experiences with hundreds of thousands of penguins within the great amphitheater at Bailey Head followed by the tour of the volcanic caldera and abandoned whaling station at Deception Island, then closing with a wonderful landing to observe fossils, seals and penguins at Hannah Point, Livingston Island.

I spoke with a number of guests on board who were also beginning to exchange points of contact for later use to stay in touch after such a fabulous experience in the Falklands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic.

The wind and waves were quite modest throughout the day and I stood with many guests out on deck to observe the sea birds that were gliding in the air currents that surround the Prince Albert II. In addition, almost everyone commented about how they had now learned to tell where they were (crossing the Antarctic Convergence Current) after listening to the Naturalists on board previously discuss how this cold current defines the Antarctic biology and affects the local weather as well.

Of course the Expedition Team kept things interesting throughout the day by offering three full presentations. Hans-Peter was first up in the morning with a presentation titled “Biodiversity: Counting Life on Earth”. I listened in the back row as he gave an incredible overview regarding the classification of life across all types of organism. He also reviewed the work yet to be done with so many species yet unidentified while at the same time observing the most rapid rate of extinctions for the past millions of years.

Soon after, I was privileged to attend Juan Carlos’ presentation on “Water, The Restless Sea”. This lecture by a world-class glaciologist and naturalist covered not just the Antarctic Regions but also the global circulation of currents and weather patterns. It gave everyone a clear understanding about the some of the weather that we have experienced during this voyage as well as the effects that temperature, pressure and salinity have on worldwide crop and living conditions. It was a topic not to be missed!

During an excellent lunch I chatted with guests who tried to convey their challenge of trying to explain the past 17 days to their friends. They said that the awesome beauty and majesty of nature has been so compelling that it would be difficult or impossible to properly describe. Even their video and digital images did not do justice to the majesty of the wildlife and scenery. Their only solution was to suggest that their family and neighbors would simply have to come down to this remote and beautiful location to experience the wonder for themselves.

Soon after lunch, Kara wound up the formal part of the day’s educational program with a superb presentation titled “A Comparison of the Polar Regions”. Her enormously varied and detailed background came clearly through as she highlighted the major aspects of these similar but distinctly different regions of the planet Earth. She covered a broad spectrum of topics in the time available and, like all of the lecturers today, fielded a large number of excellent questions from guests who wanted to explore additional specific topics.

Now we had a chance to do something new in the later afternoon: a Team Trivia Contest in the Panorama Lounge. The first one hosted by our ornithologist Will had been such a success that the Expedition Team organized a return engagement. This time I had the opportunity to host a great challenge on historical topics, people and motivations. It was designed to span many centuries with humor, laughs and a great deal of fun along with my personal collection of hopefully amusing penguin images between each question. 

Just before a superb dinner with wonderful conversation, the Expedition Team conducted its final Recap for this voyage, covering botany, history, human interest and ornithology.

Several guests further commented that we are coming towards the end of the voyage that has greatly exceeded their expectations. They were especially thankful for the chance to learn something about so many fields of study in addition to interacting with individuals from around the world who now all share a passion for the Antarctic.

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