December 27, 2012 – At Sea, En Route to Antarctica
Posted on December 28th, 2012
Temperature: 34° F
Wind speed: 20 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
The strong winds we experienced upon leaving South Georgia were coming from the stern of the ship, and the amount of ship movement during the night was quite minimal. So we had a restful sleep on board that was made all the better by the time change during the night, giving us the gift of an extra hour to relax before starting our day.
While sipping our lattes in the Grand Salon, the voice of Captain Etienne Garcia came over the PA system announcing ‘Le Boreal’ was going to pass within close proximity of an incredible tabular iceberg. We bundled up, and headed out on deck to witness this magical flat-topped iceberg, measuring approximately a mile long, and towering about 130 feet above the sea. The powerful swell of the Southern Ocean had pockmarked the side of the iceberg with impressive caves, which continued to get hammered as the swell slammed into them and shot back out as spray.
Just as we were pulling away from the iceberg, expedition leader Larry Hobbs made a call from the bridge that a fin whale had been spotted. Fin whales are one of the fastest of the whales, but this individual was traveling slowly, giving us some excellent viewing opportunities.
Following breakfast, naturalist Russ Manning told us about his experiences as a British Antarctic Survey base commander during his presentation, “Twenty-Four Years of Living and Working in Antarctica.” Russ took us through a year in the life of someone working at an Antarctic base, providing us some real insight into what a challenging and rewarding experience it is to work in this part of the world. The stories were fantastic and Russ’ passion for the Antarctic was contagious!
Also on the schedule for the morning was a young explorers program given by marine biologist Charley Wheatley on creatures of the deep sea, followed by a talk for the rest of us by geologist Henry Pollack entitled, “Ice, Water and Climate.” Henry explained how the seasonal growth and shrinkage of sea ice as well as the huge pile of ice on the Antarctic continent itself play a very important role in the dynamics of global climate.
Following lunch, many of us joined the Expedition Staff on deck to scan for wildlife before meeting photo coach Richard Harker in the Theater for his presentation, “The Perfect Penguin.” During this talk, Richard talked about some of the challenges of photographing wildlife in Antarctica’s ever-changing lighting conditions, and offered ideas for how we might deal with these challenges.
Later, assistant expedition leader Marco Favero presented his talk, “Fisheries in South Georgia and the Antarctic.” He covered the current status of fishing in these waters, talking about both the current conservation strategies in place and those we will need to implement in the future to keep fishing sustainable in this part of the world.
During recap, we learned about the break up of icebergs from naturalist Chris Srigley, some hilarious details about penguin biology from ornithologist Patricia Silva, and the fascinating world of the snowy sheathbill from naturalist Rich Pagen (with some help from the young explorers). Following dinner, many of us gathered in one of the ship’s lounges before heading off to bed.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist