January 19, 2014 – At Sea, Drake Passage
Posted on January 21st, 2014
Temperature: 42° F
Wind speed: 10-20 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
Precipitation: Light rain
The Drake Passage showed a kind face this morning, with only a gentle rocking of the ship as we steamed northwards. Some of us slept in a bit, just because we could. The last few days of landings in Antarctica had been very active, and we welcomed a low-key day to relax and recuperate.
After a leisurely breakfast and some good conversation over coffee, we joined photo coach Richard Harker in the theater for the first enrichment lecture of the day: “Photographing Antarctica: Making a Good Shot Great!” Using Ansel Adams as an example to illustrate the importance of following through with the images captured by camera, Richard gave us many suggestions about the best way to subtly adjust the images we’d captured.
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 as a result of longline fishing for Patagonian toothfish. They talked about 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.
During the afternoon, we went out on deck for some fresh air between stints of reading in the Observation Bar with a cup of tea in hand. Later, we joined marine biologist Charley Wheatley for his talk entitled, “Heading North, Looking South: Reflection on the Marine Biology of the Southern Ocean.” Charley summarized that krill, a 2-inch long shrimp-like invertebrate, are so abundant and so integral to the functioning of this ecosystem that their removal would most certainly result in its collapse. Charley also spoke about some of the fishes unique to this region, including the ice fish, which has special glycoproteins that act as antifreeze to prevent its body tissue from freezing in these frigid waters.
Following the lecture, we relaxed in one of the lounges and roamed the outer decks, feeling the misty rain as it fell and watching the cape petrels dance in the wind around the ship. We returned again to the theater for geologist Colin Summerhayes’ presentation, “Climate Change and Energy Use.” Colin cited the frequency and intensity of El Nino events, the thinning and disappearance of Arctic sea ice and the change in the composition of penguin species along the Antarctic Peninsula as examples of the changes currently taking place.
In the evening, we met again in the theater, this time for Captain Etienne Garcia’s Farewell Cocktail Party. Sharing conversations over champagne, we were introduced to so many of the ship’s crew that the stage was overflowing. Soon the Captain welcomed us to the party, thanked us for sailing onboard ‘Le Boreal,’ and summarized some of his highlights of the trip.
A wonderful dinner was then served by the restaurant staff, many of whom were introduced to us just before dessert by Cruise Director Jannie Cloete. Over a cocktail in one of the ship’s bars, we all celebrated our new friendships and a bounty of unforgettable experiences on the Southern Ocean.