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03/11/2008

  Drake Passage

We awoke with the power of the Drake Passage still very evident around us. Many of us had long since acquired our sea legs, but there was still a ship-wide anticipation of reaching the lee of Cape Horn and the calmer seas we would encounter there. After a leisurely breakfast, we joined Historian David Wilson in the Main Lounge for his talk, “Murder in the Land of Fire: Savagery, Darwin and the tale of Jemmy Button.” As the distance between the Explorer II and the southern tip of South America grew smaller and smaller, David’s lecture provided some fascinating historical background on Tierra del Fuego.

We then met with Cruise Director Jannie Cloete for a disembarkation briefing to learn about our travel details once we leave the ship in Ushuaia. This was followed by a sneak preview of the second half of the expedition DVD produced by Videographer Nathalie Martin. The footage was amazing, and our experiences in the Antarctic seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.

Our last formal activity of the day was an Expedition Overview. Expedition Leader Lou Sanson summarized the amazing journey we had all taken together, and then we watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip compiled by the Expedition Team. It featured photos of our various landings and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. There were some incredible images and we were stunned when we realized how lucky we had been with the weather and the wildlife on this journey to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

We also raffled tickets to benefit the Save the Albatross fund, the Allied Whale/College of the Atlantic Whale Catalogue, as well as the Explorer II crew welfare fund. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a silk scarf designed by National Geographic photographer Paul Sutherland, a signed print by Kim Chater from New Island in the Falklands (wife of Tony Chater who rode with us to Stanley from New Island), or a sea chart marked with our route and signed by the senior officers onboard. There was excitement in the room as the winning numbers were announced, and we were all very grateful to those who participated in the bidding.

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. These are special places beyond description, both extremely powerful and fragile at the same time. With all that we have experienced and learned, we can return home with a new found knowledge of how special the Antarctic is, and how important it is to protect it for future generations.

   

David Wilson, our staff historian, tells us the sad story of the native Fuegians after their contact with European explorers and missionaries

We take some energetic swells on our way north across the infamous Drake Passage

By early afternoon we can first glimpse the rugged coast of South America

We are full of appreciation for the excellent service we have received from our restaurant staff

The smoking room has been thoughtfully provided for those few smokers among guests and staff


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