Explorer's Antarctica Voyage 7202 Day 5

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Day 5 - January 17, 2012 - At sea between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia 

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 52 49 43, 49 09 13
Weather: Occasionally sunny but otherwise thin cloud cover in light winds and little swell
Air Temperature: 7.8C
Pressure: 1011 hPa
Wind: slight westerly

After a good night’s sleep in an amazingly calm sea I had a quick look out on deck before breakfast to see what seabirds were following the ship, but the calm seas were not to the birds’ liking, as there was little activity.

Just before my lecture this morning I had another look off my favourite spot on deck five behind the Panorama Lounge and could see a lot of Great Shearwaters, a few Slender-billed Prions and the inevitable Southern Giant Petrels following the ship so things were improving.

I was giving the first lecture of the day entitled ‘Ocean Wanderers’ – The Tubenoses’ in which I talked about many of the seabirds we had seen at sea so far and some of those we would be looking for over the next few days. This amazing family of birds includes such tiny waifs as the Wilson’s Petrel right up to the bird with the longest wingspan in the world, the Wandering Albatross. I was able to talk about their strategies for surviving one of the toughest places to live on the planet and how to identify each species.

The ship’s crew then had a general emergency practice drill during which we all filled our roles in this drill before being released to carry on which in my case meant collecting camera and binoculars and heading back out on deck.

Here I was joined by many guests for a good birding session from the back deck. There was a little more breeze than earlier, which was much to the birds’ liking as small flocks of Great Shearwaters were often following the much larger Southern Giant Petrels back and fore behind the ship across the wake. White-chinned Petrels occasionally joined the fray as did a scattering of Black-browed Albatrosses but it was the sight of a very distant adult Wandering Albatross that got the pulses racing. It took its time, but this huge bird eventually came very close to the ship gliding with consummate ease across our wake with the sound of many camera shutters clicking as it did so.

Whilst we had been birding, other guests had been entertained by our Head Sommelier Mike at his wine tasting demonstration in the Panorama Lounge, with some guests managing to go birding and wine tasting at the same time!

Following lunch it was time for the Bio security checks prior to our landing on South Georgia. This involved guests bringing their outer gear down to us in the mud room to be checked for any mud/seeds etc that might be harbouring any invasive species from the Falkland Islands. Whilst this was going on, Juan Carlos, our geologist, was introducing a film called ‘Extreme Ice’ that showed some time lapse photography taken of glaciers and ice sheets calving and splitting apart. This thought provoking film investigates the latest evidence of a radically warming planet. This was shown twice so that those involved in the first part of the bio security check could have a chance to see the film when they had finished.

Recap & Briefing followed at the end of the afternoon, which gave us a chance to talk about some of the things we had seen over the last few days covering subjects as diverse as the recent undersea earthquake near the South Shetland islands to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to the current fishing activities around the Falkland Islands.

We then had time to get ready for the First Timers cocktail party in The Theatre where we able to get to know more of the guests for who it was a first time on a Silversea vessel before Jarda gave a welcoming speech. A little later everyone headed down to The Restaurant for an excellent dinner. Sadly this evening the mist came down so we did not get the same magnificent views of colourful sunsets as we had enjoyed over the last few days.

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