Shortly before 7am, we pass Inaccessible Island of the South Orkney group
One of our 1st big icebergs of the trip
A relaxed mood reigns in the Observation Lounge on Deck 6
We sight several Minke Whales during Deck Time aft
Charlie Wheatley explains the importance of krill to the Antarctic food chain
Le Boreal - January 13, 2012
At Sea, En Route to Antarctica
Temperature: 33° F
Wind speed: 10-15 knots
Cloud cover: 70%
As we pulled back the curtains on a slate grey sky this morning, it became evident that the wind had died back considerably during the night. Residual swell was still present, but alas it seemed that our right of passage for entering Antarctica itself had come to an end.
We lingered over breakfast before heading to The Theater for Historian Bob Burton's 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.
Before lunch, we joined Ornithologist Patricia Silva for her talk, "Penguins: An introduction to their life history". Patricia began with a discussion of penguin evolution, pointing out that the closest living relatives of the penguins are the petrels and albatrosses, and that many of the now extinct penguins were actually much larger than today's penguins. She also went into penguin physiology, including the fact that penguins are very well able to fast for long periods.
In the afternoon, some of us watched "March of the Penguins" on the big screen, or caught up on some exercise in the gym. As we would be setting foot in Antarctica tomorrow, we carefully checked our gear for wayward seeds that may have hitchhiked a ride from South Georgia, with the goal of keeping non-native plants from arriving in Antarctica. Some of us joined the Expedition Team out on deck to scan for seabirds, and to look for icebergs. Those of us who visited the bridge could see the icebergs clearly on the radar; some of these were easily visible on the horizon too.
In the late afternoon, Marine biologist Charley Wheatley gathered us back into The Theater for a talk entitled, "Cold, green and deep: The dynamics of the Southern Ocean." Charley summarized that the reason that this part of the world is so chock full of life is that the great abundance of nutrients and many hours of daylight result in tremendous plankton blooms, which form the base of the food chain here. Charley also spoke about some of the fishes unique to this region, including the ice fish which has special glycoproteins which act as antifreeze to prevent its body tissue from freezing in these frigid waters.
We joined the Expedition Team for Recap before dinner, where Assistant Expedition Leader Marco Favero talked about gender differences in seabirds, and Historian Bob Burton described the unlikely events that unfolded during Nordenskjöld's 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition. After dinner, we watched the sunset alongside C19, the largest iceberg currently in existence on Earth! This 25 km by 15km fragment had broken off the Ross Ice Shelf in 2002, and has been adrift around Antarctica ever since. The Observation Lounge was packed as we sought shelter from the cold between episodes photographing this extraordinary piece of ice.