January 20, 2014 – At Sea, Drake Passage, Beagle Channel
Posted on January 21st, 2014
Temperature: 51° F
Wind speed: 15 knots
Cloud cover: 90%
We pulled back the curtains to find a great expanse of sea in all directions. Conditions were very moderate, with just enough wind to create a gentle rocking motion. An occasional wandering albatross made a close pass by the ship, investigating the unusual large grey object”plying its way northward through the Drake Passage.
The first enrichment lecture of the day, “When I Was a Lad: Tales of Old Antarctica,” was presented by historian Bob Burton. He told the story of how he first came to Antarctica 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 made a quick stop in the Grand Salon for a cookie before joining Mark Sisul for his presentation, “The World of Abercrombie & Kent.” This was followed by Cruise Director Jannie Cloete’s disembarkation briefing, during which he shared our travel plans upon leaving the ship in Ushuaia. After lunch, some of us began the task of packing while others put it off a little longer, substituting 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 Jannie again as well as Expedition Leader Suzana Machado D’Oliveira Harker 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 and 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 onboard, as well as an original drawing by ornithologist Patricia Silva.
After Suzana summarized the exciting journey we had taken together, we watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip, made up of photos taken by the Expedition Staff 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: our experiences in the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.
Later, with our belongings packed and ready for disembarkation, we headed out on deck to watch ‘Le Boreal’ approached 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 once again see civilization and to smell green vegetation after being so far removed in the snow- and ice-covered Antarctic wilderness.
The final days of our expedition found us deep in reflection and celebration, and now, we had reached the end of our exploration of the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. These remote places had proved special beyond description, extremely powerful and fragile, all at the same time. With all that we had discovered on this journey to Antarctica, we stepped off ‘Le Boreal’ not only feeling inspired, but also privileged to have experienced one of the world’s most pristine environments and empowered to do our part in protecting it for generations to come.