January 5, 2013 – At Sea, En Route to Falkland Islands
Posted on January 6th, 2013
Temperature: 49° F
Wind speed: 25 knots
Cloud cover: 100% in the morning, clearing in the afternoon to 40%
As we stepped outside with a cup of coffee in hand this morning, the last remnant of the South American continent was just barely visible off in the distance behind us. During the night, ‘Le Boreal’ had left the shelter of the Beagle Channel, and we could now feel the power of the Southern Ocean all around us.
Many of us bundled up and, with binoculars in hand, ventured on deck to take in the wild outdoors of the Southern Ocean. We encountered small groups of great shearwaters banking steeply in the strong winds, feeding in the productive waters off of their Tierra del Fuego breeding islands. We also saw our first albatrosses of the trip, including as many as four southern royal albatrosses, whose closest nesting islands are thousands of miles away near New Zealand!
We then had the opportunity to exchange our parkas for better-fitting ones before joining ornithologist Patricia Silva for her lecture, “Seabirds of the Southern Ocean.” Patricia highlighted some of the species we would see out in the open ocean and told stories of their amazing long distance travel abilities, including the fact that some species regularly circumnavigate the entire globe between nesting seasons!
Following the lecture, some of us returned to the deck with the Expedition Staff, who were pointing out the seabirds following the ship. The number of black-browed albatrosses, with their diagnostic orange beaks and dark eyebrows, was increasing as the morning progressed. These majestic birds traverse thousands of miles of seemingly featureless ocean in search of food to bring back for their one chick.
Photo enrichment Coach Richard Harker gathered beginner and professional photographers alike into the Theater for his talk, “Photography in Antarctica – What to expect and how to prepare.” He covered everything from protecting our camera equipment from unpredictable weather to understanding how best to handle the challenging lighting situations that are the norm in Antarctica.
After lunch and a leisurely afternoon spent scanning for wildlife (with breaks for hot chocolate or tea), we headed back into the Theater for “An Introduction to the Falkland Islands,” presented by various members of the Expedition Team. This medley of information and highlights was kicked off by historian Bob Burton, who gave us a brief history of the islands. Geologist Kitty Coley told us that the islands had once been connected to Africa, and were left behind when the super continent of Gondwanaland broke up. Naturalist Jen Clement went over some of the plants of the islands, while ornithologist Patricia Silva summarized some of the avian highlights.
Later, we donned our Sunday best to meet with Captain Etienne Garcia and other members of the ship’s staff in the Theater for the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, carefully swaying back and forth with the ship as we mingled over champagne. The captain told us a bit about himself then introduced several core members of his staff. It became clear that, just like those of us traveling as passengers, the crew has quite the international flare. We all had a very enjoyable evening that was rounded off by a superb gala dinner.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist