It was a calm sea day across the Drake as passengers relaxed in the lounge to the soothing sounds of live piano music.
Marine mammalogist Charley Wheatley presented his lecture on the exploitation of Antarctic resources.
Guests utilized time at sea to play a lively game of cards.
Naturalist Suzana Harker welcomed guests to the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail party with a glass of champagne!
Captain Jean Phillippe Lemaire displays the wind-tattered remains of the Abercrombie and Kent flag, a testament of the amazing storm we weathered during the cruise!
At Sea, Drake Passage
We awoke to a relatively benign Drake Passage this morning, with a slight rocking to remind us that we truly are out in the middle of the Southern Ocean. Some of us slept in a little extra, just because we could. It had been quite a stretch of very active days of landings in Antarctica, so a low-key day to relax and recuperate was very welcome.
After a leisurely breakfast and some good conversation over coffee, we joined Marine Biologist Jim McClintock in The Theater for a fascinating look at SCUBA diving in Antarctic waters. Jim talked about some of the issues that cold water diving and diving under ice can present, including the unfortunate occurrence of getting a leak in your dry suit. Jim also spoke about the diverse invertebrate communities (including sea stars, soft corals and sponges) that flourish on the very ocean seafloor we have been sailing directly over.
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 in the Southern Ocean longline fishery for Patagonian toothfish. They presented the 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.
We spent the time after lunch reading, relaxing in one of the lounges, or roaming the outer decks watching the cape petrels dance in the wind around the ship. Then it was back into The Theater for Geologist Colin Summerhayes' presentation, "Climate change and energy use". Colin spoke of an important predicament we humans have found ourselves in: a steady increase in our population size coupled with a widespread desire to improve our lifestyles through technology and gadgets. He went through the repercussions of this, as well as his hope that we move towards a low carbon economy through alternative energy sources.
We grabbed a cup of coffee and went out on deck for some air after the lecture. We joined some of the Expedition Staff there, who helped us identify the seabirds that were following the ship. Two Antarctic petrels and a whole mob of cape petrels were the stars of the show, catching the updraft from the ship and soaring right along the railing. It was spectacular to watch their grace and finesse in the wind!
We then went back into The Theater to join Marine Biologist Charley Wheatley for the final enrichment lecture of the day, "The exploitation of Antarctic resources". Charley took us through the history of resource exploitation in the Antarctic, starting with the harvest of fur seals for their luxurious fur coats and elephant seals for the oil that could be rendered from their blubber. Nowadays, fishing for toothfish (aka "Chilean sea bass") and harvesting krill top the list of Antarctic resource extraction, and we left the lecture hall hoping that we can manage these resources better than those targeted in the past.
In the evening, we met for Captain Jean Philippe Lemaire's Farewell Cocktail Party in The Theater. We mingled over champagne, and were introduced to many of the ship's crew. Soon the Captain stepped up to the stage to welcome us to the party. He 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. The bar in the Observation Lounge was teaming after dinner, and we all celebrated the friends we made and the experiences we had on this adventure to the south.