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Day 1 - November 30, 2008 - Departing Ushuaia

By Victoria Salem

Position: 54 33’S, 68 19’W
Weather & Sea conditions: Fine, sunny & calm

Embarkation onto Silversea’s expedition ship the Prince Albert II took place from 2.30 – 3.30pm. Guests checked into their suites and relaxed over a drink and light buffet. Captain Peter Stahlberg introduced himself over the PA system and informed crew, staff and guests alike of an emergency drill taking place at 4.30pm. This is required of all sea-going vessels within the first 24 hours of sailing. After hearing the emergency signal (seven short blasts and one long) we returned to our suites to pick up life-jackets, then gathered in the ship’s muster station: The Theatre on Deck 6. Expedition Leader, Robin West, briefed us on what to do if summoned to the muster station and explained emergency procedures for taking to the lifeboats – in the unlikely event of this being necessary.

We were then free to explore the ship, settle into our suites and unpack until 6pm, when we again gathered in The Theatre for an introduction to the heads of department for restaurant service, catering, provisioning, wine service and housekeeping. This was followed by introductions to the individual members of our Expedition Team, a group of specialists responsible for explaining and interpreting what the guests will see over the next eleven days - for bringing Antarctica alive. Whether our specific interest lies in ornithology, geology and ice, marine mammals, climate change, history or photography, all are covered by our wide-ranging group of naturalists, lecturers and Zodiac drivers. Expedition Leader, Robin West, explained various aspects of shipboard routine and sketched out for us how the Prince Albert II operates to maximize our comfort and adventure experience throughout our expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Just as our briefing ended, Captain Peter Stahlberg came on the PA system to announce our imminent departure from Ushuaia at 6.45pm. We went up on deck to enjoy beautiful views of this city “at the end of the world” as it receded into the distance and we entered the Beagle Channel, to begin sailing towards the Drake Passage and the Southern Ocean. Snow-capped mountain peaks stood out against blue skies in sunshine on both sides of the channel as we cruised along, halfway between Argentina and Chile, enjoying a departure cocktail in the open air on the sundeck!

From 7.30pm, The Restaurant was open, serving our first delicious meal. Lively conversation and appreciation of good food and drink ensued. Towards the end of dinner we caught glimpses of a red sunset sky and were enticed back out on deck by such fine weather to look for seabirds flying and penguins and dolphins swimming around the ship. Before retiring to bed for the night, many of us adjourned to the Panorama Lounge for a nightcap and relaxed to the smooth sounds of Adam, our onboard pianist.

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