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Day 20 - March 22, 2011 - At Sea en route for Cape Town

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 35 36 8 S, 005 30 0 E
Weather: A mixture of sunshine and misty showers during the day with a stiff south easterly wind
Air Temperature: 19 C
Sea Temperature: 20 C
Wind: Force 6 to 7


As the wind and swell had picked up overnight as forecast, I was expecting to see a wide variety of seabirds following the Prince Albert II when I had my first look from the aft deck this morning. Sadly this was not the case as initially there was very little birdlife in sight. Things did pick up after a while so that we had a small group of Spectacled Petrels and White-chinned Petrels following our wake. Every so often they would come up close to the ship before shearing off and heading away again. There was enough wind for them to show how good they were at dynamic soaring as they came up against the wind with a very graceful flight. I was a little surprised to see that Spectacled Petrels outnumbered their close relative the White-chinned Petrels as I would have thought the ratio between the two would have changed the further we got from the Tristan da Cunha home of the Spectacled Petrel. These species were occasionally joined by Great-winged Petrels, a few Great Shearwater and some Soft-plumaged Petrels. Sadly for those guests joining me from time to time I could not find any albatross this morning.

The first event of the day was a lecture by David Guggenheim, one of our guest lecturers, entitled ‘Climate Change and its Evil Twin: What you Need to Know About the Ocean’s Future’. In his lecture David talked about the little publicized phenomenon of acid oceans that accompanies climate change. He went on to talk about how this could cause the demise of many of the world’s coral reefs and other damage that could occur. He did give some reasons for hope by showing us some of his work in Cuba and giving us information of how we could work together to solve the problems caused by the acidification of the oceans.

This was followed by a cooking demonstration by our Executive Chef Marcus in the Panorama Lounge. He kept us entertained in his exuberant style whilst cooking pasta in conditions that were somewhat trying as the swell was still having an effect.

Following lunch in The Restaurant, from where we could see that the sun was winning by now even though there was still some cloud about, it was time for a film introduced by our other guest lecturer, Dr Harald Schwammer, in The Theatre. The subject of this film was Jane Goodall and her work studying the chimpanzees of Gombe in Tanzania. Her work has increased our knowledge of this species by an incredible amount, enabling us to be able to have a better idea of what habitat this threatened species needs to survive. The film then went on to show her founding and then working with ‘Roots and Shoots’ and other community based programmes that would benefit the people and the environment they lived in. She is still travelling the globe encouraging everyone to become involved and to make sure her message is heard by all.

Luke was question master in the Panorama Lounge for the latest round of Trivia Challenge. His fish-based questions gave us a lot of fun as he managed to slot in questions about cartoon fish as well as more serious ones about the fishing industry in the waters we had been sailing the last few weeks.

Our last lecture of the day was by our other guest lecturer Harry Schwammer and was entitled ‘Grey Giants – Elephants in Africa’. Harry has been working with elephants for over fifteen years and shared with us some of his knowledge of these much-loved animals. He also told us about the work he has been doing with orphaned youngsters in his Sri Lanka based conservation project.

The rest of the evening proved to be very special as at 1900 the Expedition Staff and some of the Crew and guests were invited up onto the Bridge to celebrate the Maritime Wedding of Robin, our Expedition Leader, and Jarda the Expedition Assistant conducted by the Captain. This proved to be a memorable occasion followed by a toast to the happy couple. The Captain presented Robin and Jarda with a map upon which the outlines of South America and Africa had been turned into their faces by some very clever artwork. A very ornate wedding cake was then brought onto the Bridge for Robin and Jarda to cut. The chefs had done an amazing job creating this masterpiece, even down to two penguins on top.

Following the ceremony and as they headed towards the Panorama Lounge, Hans-Peter made an announcement over the public address system to let all the guests know what was going on as it had been one of the best kept secrets ever until that point. We relaxed in the Panorama Lounge for a while before heading down to The Restaurant for an excellent dinner. There was a round of applause and a lot of cameras flashing as the couple made their way to their table. The Executive Chef Marcus had excelled himself on their behalf and with a series of toasts during the evening from those who had known Robin and Jarda the longest, it made for a lovely evening.

We all wished them every happiness and a long life together wherever that happens to be in the world.

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