Geologist Colin Summerhayes shares a laugh with a guest on our first morning in the Drake Passage.
Ornithologist Patricia Silva explains the finer points of sea birds as a guest attempts to capture with her camera!
Passengers check out their digital photos in the stylish lobby of the Le Boreal as others head out on deck.
Guests enjoy a mid afternoon snack in the main lounge for Tea Time.
Captain Jean Phillippe Lemaire greets guests as they arrive at the Welcome Cocktail party.
Captain Lemaire introduces his officers to the passengers.
At Sea, En Route to Antarctica
We awoke to a new world, one defined by an ocean view in all directions, with the South American continent now far out of sight behind us. During the night, Le Boreal left the shelter of the Beagle Channel and by the time we got out of bed this morning, the ship's motion was quite evident. We put on our sea legs and carefully made our way upstairs for a hearty breakfast.
With a hot cup of coffee in hand, we bundled up and went out on deck to watch the entourage of petrels and albatrosses escorting us south. Chocolate-colored southern giant-petrels swirled around behind the ship, their substantial pale beaks glowing in the intermittent morning sunshine. We also saw our first albatrosses of the trip, including the wandering albatross, with its spectacular 11-foot wingspan!
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! Patricia presented beautiful photos that made us all want to spend every waking moment out on deck, in the hope of catching a glimpse of some of these striking birds.
After a break for a cup of bouillon, Historian Bob Burton gathered everyone back in The Theater for an entertaining lecture entitled "My favorite heroes of Antarctic exploration", during which he told some amazing stories from the Heroic Age of Exploration in Antarctica. From Apsley Cherry-Garrard's quote of thinking of "death as a friend" to the unthinkable dinner ration of 1.5 mugs of penguin and seal hooch, a biscuit and thin cocoa, Bob provided us with some insight into the mindset of the men who went out into some of the harshest physical conditions on the planet with the goal of discovery.
Following lunch, 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 to best deal with the challenging lighting situations that are the norm in Antarctica. We left feeling both empowered and excited to go out and capture that perfect shot.
We had the opportunity to practice our photography out on deck, where the Expedition Staff were gathered to point out the seabirds following the ship. We then headed in for the final enrichment lecture of the day, "The ecological impacts of climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula", presented by Marine Biologist Jim McClintock. This part of the world has experienced one of the greatest shifts in climate on the planet, and the effects of this include a 40% reduction in the extent of winter sea ice around the continent over the past 25 years, the arrival of large crabs from the sub-Antarctic waters to the north of Antarctica, and the weakening of the shells of Antarctic mollusks due to ocean acidification.
We then all donned our Sunday best and met Captain Jean-Phillipe Lemaire and many 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 explained the Iceberg Spotting Competition to us, and 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.