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Day 11 - December 31, 2009 - At Sea In The Scotia Sea

By Rich Kirchner, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 58°21.47’S 44°47.5W
Weather: Cloudy and warm, calm conditions

A day at sea, and a chance to catch up on some needed sleep. So at about 8:30 am I crawled out of bed, got dressed and went to the Observation Lounge to have a cup of coffee and something to eat. After I finally was awake, it was time for a little wildlife watching and some conversation with guests out on deck.

My time on deck was short, because today we had to do the “bio security” check before getting to Antarctica. So, while Victoria gave a lecture about the Antarctic Treaty System, the rest of the Expedition Team vacuumed clothing, looked at boots, and made sure that all our gear was cleaned before the first landing in Antarctica. After we were done, it was back out on deck until lunch.

It was amazingly calm and warm for the Southern Ocean, and a perfect day for possibly spotting some whales. There were a few seabirds around, but with the lack of wind, the albatross weren’t to be seen. Suddenly, I started seeing a tremendous number of prions and other smaller birds flying and sitting in large groups in every direction; we were entering an area with a lot of available food, probably krill.

Not long after that I saw the first blows in the distance on the port side – they were Fin whales, a group of about six animals. More blows ahead, we were in an area of “Primary Production”, and it was teeming with life. A call went out, the decks filled, and everyone got tremendous looks at the fastest whale in the ocean: the Fin whale. Throughout the rest of the day, the whale’s blows could be seen far and then near.

At 2:30 Peter Damisch gave a lecture entitled “ Ice Ageless, Search for the Continent”. It introduced the guests to the bold explorers who blazed the trail to Antarctica.

When that was finished, a lot of the guests came back out on deck and continued to watch the birds and look for whales, until “tea time”. I went in for a cup of coffee and a little socializing, until at 5:00 it was time for our destination briefing for the next day.

Myself and the rest of the Expedition Team secretly stole away to The Theatre, where we hung decorations, blew up balloons and made ready for a fun New Year’s Eve celebration. The cocktail party was hosted by the Captain who gave a warm and thoughtful New Year’s speech. We all remembered bits of the past year and in particular, bits of the past week we have been enjoying so thoroughly.

The “D Mixed Nuts” our Prince Albert II Crew Band, played while we danced and found one of our youngest guests, Thomas, to be quite the dancer! The time flew and before I knew it, we were counting down the seconds……..5, …………..4, …………..3,………..2,………………1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!

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