Day 8 - February 18, 2011 - At sea in the Drake Passage – en route to Ushuaia

By by Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 61°40.0S, 062°44.4W
Weather: overcast, rough seas
Air Temperature: 3°C
Wind: 30 – 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots

We had been warned by Robin West (our Expedition Leader) last night to expect rough seas starting at about 1am. Well…he was right. By the time everyone woke up in the morning the swell had reached about 5 - 6 m and the winds about 35 – 40 knots. But, to give our ship credit, the Prince Albert II sails very well in these seas. I was amazed to see how many guests showed up for the first lecture at 10am.

Luke Kenny, our fisheries expert, gave a wonderful lecture about the three main commercial fisheries found here in Antarctic waters. They are: krill, Patagonian toothfish (also known as Chilean Bass) and Mackerel icefish. He explained how each of the fishing techniques worked and discussed a bit about the biology of the animals themselves.

After Luke’s lecture, it was Claudia Holgate’s turn to give her talk on the controversial topic “Climate Change”. She gave us up-to-date data on temperatures and rainfall around the world and clearly explained all sides of the debate concerning this topic. She also explained what impacts the warming of the polar regions were having, and will continue to have, on the animals living in these regions.

Lunch was quite busy, with most people taking the rolling and bumping with great delight – laughing and giggling as they swayed around The Restaurant trying not so spill their plates. Afterwards, a few intrepid guests made their way out to the back deck with Will, our birder, to watch the beautiful antics of the petrels and albatrosses that were flying just off the stern of our ship.

After lunch, at 2pm, Juan our geologist introduced a film called “Severe Ice”. This movie highlights the changes to the glaciers of the world. It is a spectacular film with time-lapse camera films showing the dynamic nature of glaciers over time.

I think most people took a little nap after the film because I was walking around the ship and didn’t run into a single guest – all was quiet in the hallways. But, at 5pm, many ventured out again to join Ken Knowles, one of our birders, for his talk on Tube-nose birds (petrels and shearwaters). He had some amazing photos of these birds that he used to demonstrate aspects of their biology and behaviour.

At 6:45pm everyone gathered again for the Expedition Team’s Recap & Briefing session where, at the end, Robin showed us the most up-to-date weather reports, and warned us that although we had made good progress during the day, we were still expecting rough weather for the next day too. But that was all right, we had a full day of lectures and activities planned!