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Day 2 - January 30, 2009 - At Sea In The Drake Passage

By David Elliot

Overnight, the seas in the northern Drake Passage remained relatively calm even though we had a following wind. We started the lectures this morning with Claudia Holgate presenting a talk entitled “Ice, Wind, and Waves: An Introduction to Antarctica and It's Climate”. And then, later in the morning, Chris Collins reviewed the birds we are likely to see during our crossing of the Drake Passage. The birds we have seen so far include Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Wilson's Storm-petrel, and Black-bellied Storm-petrel, and Antarctic Prion.

Mid-afternoon, we had the Zodiac briefing in preparation for our landings on the continent and the offshore islands of the South Shetlands and Gerlache Strait region. This was immediately followed by boot issue, so now we are fully prepared for the adventures to come. Seas began to pick up a little in the afternoon, but fortunately the Prince Albert II is a remarkably stable vessel. Following the Afternoon Tea, we heard Andrew Marshall discuss whales and, in particular, those we are likely to encounter. These include the rare Blue Whale, the largest animal on Earth, the uncommon Fin, Sei, Sperm, Southern Right, and Bryde's whales, and the Minke Whale, which is the species now being exploited. Andrew went into detail on the biology and habits of the Humpback Whale, the one we are likely to see in the Gerlache Strait region. Of the many dolphins, it is possible that the hourglass dolphin could be seen in the Drake Passage, and then the ever present possibility of the Orca or Killer Whale.

This evening the Captain, Peter Stalhberg, held his Welcome Cocktail Party at which we came to know more of our fellow travelers. This has been a splendid start to our voyage, despite the rising seas.

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