Voyage Journal 7106 Day 14

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Day 14 - March 16, 2011 - At Sea en route to Tristan da Cunha

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 40 44 0 S, 014 05 5 W
Weather: Grey foggy patches with occasional bursts of sunshine
Air Temperature: 17 C
Sea Temperature: 16 C
Wind: Force 5

As has been my custom on sea days I had a quick look outside to see what birds were following the ship before I went for breakfast in the Restaurant. Sadly this morning that proved a little difficult as the visibility was not very good even though there was blue sky above us.

The sea had calmed down during the night and I saw on the screens that we had been able to pick up speed and were now making twelve knots and riding very comfortably.

Robin Aiello gave the first lecture on the day in the Theatre entitled “Life as a Scientist in Antarctica” in which she described some of the trials and tribulations of working far from normal civilization out on the ice. She also showed us how they ran the scuba diving research expedition that she led and also had some wonderful photographs of the wildlife they found on the far side of Antarctica.

Shortly after Robin Aiello had finished her lecture we had a general emergency drill for all crew. The guests were then greeted with the sight of us all going to our appointed positions wearing our large orange life jackets. The drill involved a simulated fire on board and it was very comforting to see how quickly everyone was in place and the ‘emergency’ was dealt with. Prior to the drill Robin, our Expedition Leader had made an announcement over the public address system to assure all guests this was only a drill and that there was no need to worry.

Once the drill was over everything went back to normal very quickly and I took the opportunity to spend some time on the aft deck looking at the birds that were coming close to our port side. Every so often the fog cleared and we had a beautiful blue sea and sky. For those guests who joined me from time to time I was able to point out the Broad-billed Prions that were now accompanying the ship and the occasional Great Shearwater. These species breed on the Tristan group so were a good sign of our impending arrival. The bird of the day was the Spectacled Petrel that came in from our northern flank, had a quick look at the ship before continuing on its way. This is one of the rarest seabirds with only 10,000 breeding pairs in the world, all of which are found on Inaccessible Island. To say I was pleased to see this species was an understatement!

Following lunch in the Dining Room I and many others settled down to watch the third part of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ concerning the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen. An enthralling programme that really captures the hardships they went through as well as to show Antarctica in all its glory.

Another short spell on the aft deck saw me watching another Tristan specialty in the form of a Yellow-nosed Albatross which sadly vanished as soon as I drew some of the guest’s attention to it.

This afternoon’s ‘Team Trivia’ was hosted by Jarda and proved to be different type of quiz to what had gone before as she teased us with questions that all had numbers as their answers. As we had not seen the questions the Expedition Team took part under the name ‘Liars Club’ and managed to win by one point from some very competitive teams amongst the guests.

Later in the afternoon I gave my lecture entitled ‘Antarctic Penguins- an introduction to this most charismatic family’ during which I showed how these tough birds survive in one of the harshest environments in the world. I started by talking about the great penguins i.e. the Emperor and the King before continuing to talk about the brush-tailed penguins which include the Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adele before finishing with the “crested” and “jackass” penguins. In the past I have included those species we see from The Prince Albert II on her usual schedule but as we were heading for Tristan and South Africa I was able to include species we see there for the first time.

As Robin came into the Theatre for recap he said he had seen a large albatross following the ship. I looked out the window and sure enough there was the Tristan race of Wandering Albatross gliding up the port side of the ship. As the guests assembled in the Theatre most were able to get a good view of this magnificent bird as it did several glides past the ship. Recap began with Robin Aiello playing a clip of comedy voice over’s of various animals which had all laughing out loud. Luke then followed with some information about the Long-line fisheries around South Georgia before Claudia came up to talk about the Reindeer of South Georgia. Robin, our Expedition Leader then came up to give us the surprising information that in the early hours of the morning a very large bulk carrier, the ms Oleva had run aground on Nightingale Island and that we had altered course to see if we could offer any assistance. A fishing boat was standing by and Robin told us that we would be arriving at the site just as dawn was breaking tomorrow and would be talking to those involved by radio at that time. I think everyone in the Theatre was already planning to set their alarms for a 0630 start in the morning. Our plan was still to land on Tristan during the morning but as the forecast was not good we would have to wait and see.

There was a lot of talk during dinner of how the ms Olivia had managed to run aground on the most remote islands in the world. Dinner was a little different tonight as some of the ships officers joined tables in the Restaurant and we had Chef Marcus’s Superb Dessert Buffet in the Panorama Lounge where there were enough delicacies to tempt everyone’s palette.

Some guests stayed in the Panorama Lounge for a while listening to our musician Perry whilst others headed off to their suites to charge camera batteries for what promised to be most interesting day

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