Bob Burton entertains us with his tales of ‘When I were a lad at Signy’
At teatime we are treated to French crepes
Dennis plays the piano as we near the entrance to the Beagle Channel
Le Boreal - January 18, 2012
At Sea, Drake Passage, Beagle Channel
Temperature: 45° F
Wind speed: 15 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
Precipitation: Occasional light rain
During the night, the wind decreased considerably and along with it the swell. We awoke to grey skies, with the occasional albatross making a close pass by the ship before banking off into the distance. It was quite peaceful looking out over the great expanse of sea, listening to the sound of Le Boreal plying its way northward through blue-grey waters.
The first enrichment lecture of the day, "When I was a lad", was presented by Historian Bob Burton. Bob told the story of how he first came to the Antarctic nearly 50 years ago, on a two-year contract to work at Signy (Base H) in the South Orkney Islands. From stories of Ginger the base cat chasing sheathbills, to the table in the chemistry lab being turned into an impromptu platform for an emergency appendicitis operation, Bob provided us with a real inside look at life at a remote Antarctic station back in the 1960's.
We then grabbed a cookie before meeting with Cruise Director Jannie Cloete for a disembarkation briefing to learn about our travel details once we leave the ship in Ushuaia. After lunch, many of us began the task of packing, or put it off a little longer and substituted in a nap instead.
Following some wonderful crepes at afternoon tea, we joined Cruise Director Jannie Cloete, Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs and the rest of the Expedition Team for an overview of our trip. We participated in a raffle to benefit both the Le Boreal Crew Welfare Fund, as well as the Save the Albatross Fund. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a sea chart marked with our route and signed by the senior officers onboard, as well as an original drawing by Ornithologist Patricia Silva. There was excitement in the room as the winning names were announced, and we were pleased to hear that a total of 3,260 Euros was raised for Crew Welfare, and 2,400 Euros for the Save the Albatross Fund.
After Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs summarized the exciting journey we had all taken together, we watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip, made up of photos taken by the Expedition Staff and compiled by Photo Coach Richard Harker. It featured photos of our various landings, and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. The photos were amazing, and our experiences in the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.
We made sure we had all of our belongings packed before heading out on deck to watch our arrival into Ushuaia. South American tern flocks fished over groups of Magellanic penguins, while groups of blue-eyed shags ushered us in to the pier. It was quite a shock to see civilization after being away in the wilderness for so long, and to smell the green vegetation again after being away from it for so long.
The final days of this expedition have been dominated by reflection and celebration. We have reached the end of our exploration of the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. This is a special place beyond description, extremely powerful and fragile at the same time. With all that we have experienced and learned, we can return home with a newfound knowledge of how special Antarctica is, and how important it is to protect it for future generations.