January 17, 2013 – At Sea, Drake Passage
Posted on January 19th, 2013
Temperature: 40° F
Wind speed: 15-25 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
Precipitation: Occasional misting rain
The Drake Passage showed its kind face this morning, with only a gentle rocking of the ship as we steamed northwards. A dense fog enveloped the ship creating a mysterious feel to the morning, augmented by the fact that not a single bird was seen around the ship for several hours. Some of us slept in a little extra, just because we could. It had been quite a stretch of very active days of landings in Antarctica, so a low-key day to relax and recuperate was very welcome.
After a leisurely breakfast and good conversation over coffee, we joined photo coach Richard Harker in the Theater for the first enrichment lecture of the day entitled, “Photographing Antarctica: Making a Good Shot into a Great Shot at Home!” Using Ansel Adams as an example to illustrate the importance of following through with the images captured by the camera, Richard gave us many suggestions about the best way to subtly adjust our images now that we’ve captured them. We left feeling empowered to begin the process of editing the many photos we’d taken on this trip.
Before lunch, assistant expedition leader Marco Fever and ornithologist Patricia Silva gave a talk called, “Albatross, We Have a Problem.” They discussed the issue of bycatch in fishing, specifically the accidental catch of albatrosses and petrels in the Southern Ocean longline fishery for Patagonian toothfish. They presented the declining population trends for several seabird species, and then explained some of the techniques that are being used on fishing boats to keep seabirds from drowning on fishing hooks. They also proposed some ideas for how we can become involved and make a difference in saving populations of these remarkable birds.
During the afternoon, we split our time between enjoying the fresh ocean air out on deck and reading in the warm Observation Bar with a cup of tea in hand. We then joined geologist Kitty Coley in the Theater for her talk, “The Evolution of Birds: From Dinos to Doves.” Kitty took us through recent developments since the 1996 discovery of the first feathered dinosaur fossils in China. We were fascinated to learn that it’s now possible to determine the former color of fossil feathers, to the point that in 2010 the entire plumage of a feathered dinosaur was color mapped. It was also interesting to find out that at least one modern bird, the hoatzin of South America, actually exhibits a rather reptilian characteristic of digits on its wings when it is young so that it can grasp branches when climbing around vegetation.
In the evening, we met for Captain Etienne Garcia’s Farewell Cocktail Party in the Theater. Sipping champagne and mingling with new friends, we were also introduced to so many of the ship’s crew that the stage was overflowing. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see many of the faces that have contributed so much to our enjoyable experience on board ‘Le Boreal.’ Soon the Captain stepped up to the stage to welcome us to the party. He thanked us for sailing on board ‘Le Boreal,’ and summarized some of his own highlights on our trip.
A wonderful dinner was then served by the restaurant staff, many of who were introduced to us just before dessert by cruise director Jannie Cloete. Afterward, we shared a cocktail at the bar and celebrated our many adventures on the Southern Ocean.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist