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Day 11 - February 8, 2009 - South Of Cape Horn And Beagle Channel

By Chris Collins

After two consecutive days of extremely smooth conditions crossing the Drake Passage, we awoke south of Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos) to grey skies, 20 knots of wind, and a gentle 'chop' of about a metre. The previous evening, the Captain had said that at 8am we would be closest to the Cape, however, unfortunately the area was covered in murk and very little could be seen. As we enjoyed breakfast in The Restaurant, the visibility improved considerably and the most southerly point in South America could be seen emerging from the gloom off our port (left) side.

As we slowly cruised onward towards the entrance to the Beagle Channel, there were plenty of birds to be seen around the ship with great looks at Black-browed Albatrosses, Wilson's Storm-petrels and literally hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters. Whilst the majority of these were travelling in small groups, occasionally we came across larger flocks of a couple of hundred shearwaters. These amazing birds are now widely regarded as having one of the longest migration routes of any bird and whilst some fly from south of Tierra del Fuego to the North Atlantic, others migrate around the Pacific, an annual journey of many thousands of miles. Also present were smaller numbers of Great Shearwaters, a species that breeds on the islands of the Tristan da Cunha group and that also migrates into the North Atlantic outside of the breeding season.

At 10:00am, the first lecture of the day was given by David Munro, who is a member of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Prince Albert II Foundation. During his talk, David told the story of the current Prince's great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, who had devoted his life to the study of marine geology and oceanography. The Prince had also made a number of trips to the Arctic and produced some of the first bathymetric charts.

An hour later, David's lecture was followed by mine - a discussion on the penguins and albatrosses of the world. During my illustrated talk, I discussed the problems that many southern ocean albatrosses were having as a result of long-line fishing and how the populations of many species were declining at unsustainable rates.

After lunch and as the ship approached the entrance to the Beagle Channel, we gathered in The Theatre for the last recap of the voyage. Our Expedition Leader, Ignacio Rojas, gave an overview of the voyage listing all the places we had visited and he was then followed by all the Expedition Staff who each gave a short presentation, a number of which included personal highlights from the voyage. Finally, the Expedition Photographer, Brogan Bunt, showed us a selection of the voyage images that will be on the complimentary CD given to each guest.

At 6pm, we were all back in The Theatre and the Captain gave a short speech, which he followed by introducing the staff from the various departments on the ship including The Restaurant, chefs and housekeeping. The Captain then presented "Employee of the Month" awards to three of the staff.

With dinner served at the slightly earlier time of 18:30, we enjoyed our last evening meal of the voyage with the forested slopes of the mountains along the Beagle Channel as a stunning backdrop. Yet again, the weather was kind to us with more blue skies and great visibility - we had been truly fortunate to be blessed with such outstanding weather throughout the voyage.

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