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01/18/2010

At Sea, En Route to Ushuaia

After four busy days in Antarctica, this first sea day provided ample time for sleeping in, and so many of us rolled over once or twice before getting up to greet the day. A thick fog, which the Minerva had entered yesterday evening, was still very much in evidence this morning, occasionally loosening its grip only to quickly close back in around us. Not a single bird was following us, adding to the feeling that we are very much alone out here in the Southern Ocean.

After breakfast, we stopped by the bulletin board to read up on ocean currents and to check the water temperature graph to stay abreast of our progress in passing back across the Antarctic Convergence. While the ship’s company conducted an emergency drill, we went out on deck to mingle with the Naturalists and to try to spot the first bird of the day. Soon the ship punched its way out of the fog bank and, within minutes, several albatrosses and petrels spotted the ship in the greatly increased visibility, and came over for a look at us.

Before lunch, Expedition Leader Marco Favero 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.

During the noontime announcement, Captain John Moulds told us that we were already approximately one third of the way across the Drake Passage. The calm winds and light swell continued while we retired for a short nap following lunch, after which we joined Geologist Monte Marshall for his final talk, “The development of plate tectonics: An insider’s view.” Monte told the story of the discoveries leading up to the development of the concept of plate tectonics, beginning with Alfred Wegner’s work in the 1920’s.

Following Monte’s talk, we chatted over scones and tea, and spent some time out on deck watching seabirds, which had definitely picked up in numbers over the course of the day. Some of us picked the mind of Photo Enrichment Coach David Salmanowitz over our pressing photography questions.

We then joined Historian John Dudeney for his lecture, “Who owns and who governs Antarctica?”. John spoke of how the Antarctic Treaty operates, and went on to discuss some current Antarctic issues including the impact of tourism, and the ice core drilling down to pristine Lake Vostok beneath 3,000 meters of ice.

In the evening, we met for Captain John Mould’s Farewell Cocktail Party in the Darwin Lounge. The band played as we mingled over champagne, and soon the Captain stepped up to the stage to welcome us to the party. Doused in his usual humor, he thanked us for sailing onboard the Minerva, and summarized some of his highlights of the trip.

A wonderful dinner was then served by the restaurant staff. Shackleton’s bar was teaming after dinner and, as Pianist Andras Vamosi sent beautiful music into the air, we all celebrated the friends we made and the experiences we had on this adventure to the south.
 

   

Marine mammalogist Chris Cutler looks for whales with a few passengers during the Drake crossing.

A guest uses the daily programs to catch up on his journal writing in the library.

A guest takes advantage of a sale at the onboard shop and buys a new jacket.

Captain John Moulds greets guests at his Farewell Cocktail party.

Five guests share a good laugh together at the Captain's party.


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