January 18, 2013 – At Sea, Drake Passage, Beagle Channel
Posted on January 19th, 2013
Temperature: 55° F
Wind speed: 10-20 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
Precipitation: None in the morning, occasional light showers in the afternoon
We pulled back the curtains to a great expanse of sea in all directions. Conditions were very moderate, with just enough wind to create a gentle rocking motion. An occasional black-browed albatross made a pass by the ship, investigating the “unusual large grey object” plying its way northward through the Drake Passage. Reading a good book with a cup of coffee in the Grand Salon followed by a full breakfast was a good way to start the day.
The first enrichment lecture of the day, “When I Was a Lad”, was presented by historian Bob Burton. Bob told the story of how he first came to the Antarctic nearly 50 years ago, on a two-year contract to work at Signy (Base H) in the South Orkney Islands. From stories of Ginger the base cat chasing sheathbills, to the table in the chemistry lab being turned into an impromptu platform for an emergency appendicitis operation, Bob provided us with a real inside look at life at a remote Antarctic station back in the 1960s.
We darted into the Grand Salon for a cookie before joining Ann-Marie Chapman for her presentation, “The World of Abercrombie & Kent.” This was followed by cruise director Jannie Cloete’s disembarkation briefing, during which we learned about our travel details once we leave the ship in Ushuaia. After lunch, many of us began the task of packing, or put it off a little longer and substituted in a nap or some more time out on deck instead. Then, at tea time, ‘Le Boreal’s’ culinary team served up some wonderful crepes.
During late afternoon, we joined cruise director Jannie Cloete, expedition leader Larry Hobbs and the rest of the Expedition Team for an overview of our trip. We participated in a raffle to benefit both the ‘Le Boreal’ Crew Welfare Fund, as well as the Save the Albatross Fund. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a sea chart marked with our route and signed by the senior officers on board, as well as an original drawing by ornithologist Patricia Silva.
After expedition leader Larry Hobbs summarized the exciting journey we had all taken together, we watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip, made up of photos taken by the Expedition Team and compiled by photo coach Richard Harker. It featured photos of our various landings, and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. The photos were amazing, and our experiences in the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.
We made sure we had all of our belongings packed before heading out on deck to watch our arrival into Ushuaia. South American tern flocks fished over groups of Magellanic penguins, while groups of blue-eyed shags ushered us in to the pier. It was quite a shock to see civilization after being away in the wilderness for so long, and to smell the green vegetation again after being down in the ice.
We had reflected on this life-changing journey so much in our last days of exploration in the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. The Southern Ocean was truly a special place beyond description — extremely powerful and fragile at the same time. With all that we had experienced and learned, and while sad to see our adventure end, we were almost excited to return home to share our new-found knowledge of Antarctica and the great import it will continue to carry for generations to come.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist