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02/23/2008

At Sea

The Drake Passage came knocking during the night, a gentle rocking picking up into something more as we slept. In the morning, a grey sky loomed outside the window while we sipped our coffee, a misting rain and large white caps accenting the moody scene. It was nice to be able to sleep in after such a rigorous schedule of landings the past five days and, for some of us, a late night of Irish drinking songs and tango dancing in Shackleton’s Bar.

The first lecture of the day, “Humpback whales: their past, present and future“, was given by Marine Mammalogist Mark Deakos. He introduced us to some of the amazing life history characteristics of humpback whales, and discussed the modern day and future issues that they are facing. This was followed by a final lecture by Photo Enrichment Coach Richard Harker, entitled “I’ve got the shot: Now what do I do?”. Richard had many good ideas for how to travel with the many images we now have of our trip to the Antarctic, how to archive them, and how to subtly adjust them. On deck there were few birds to be seen, and the bumpy seas persuaded the Captain to recommend that we stay off the outer decks for the time being.

The rocking and rolling swell drew many of us into our state rooms for an afternoon nap. We resurfaced for Ornithologist Rich Pagen’s talk “Albatrosses off the hook: Seabirds and fisheries in the new millennium”. He explained the ins and outs of longline fishing for Patagonian toothfish , as well as the impact that it has had on seabirds in the Southern Ocean. He gave details on what is being done to solve this problem, as well as ideas for how we can become involved and make a difference. He also provided us with information on how to support sustainable fisheries and avoid those that are not sustainable or that do not take steps to protect seabirds from harm.

The final lecture of the day was “Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: A hero in the family”, given by Historian David Wilson. David went through the amazing life of his great uncle, from his bout with tuberculosis to his discovery and contagious interest in the bizarre yet perfect breeding cycle of the emperor penguin. Edward Wilson’s expertise both as a scientist and as an illustrator were impressive, and we especially enjoyed the stories of his travels in the Antarctic now that we truly understood what this fascinating and harsh place is like.

In the evening, we met for Captain Giovanni Biasutti’s Farewell Cocktail Party, under conditions which could be best described as “interesting”. The ship was rolling quite a bit, but the staff lent us their arms to make sure we got safely to a secure seat. The band played on, and we sipped champagne as the Captain thanked us for coming, told us a bit about the crew welfare fund onboard the Explorer II, and said goodbye to the members of the Expedition Staff who would be leaving the ship after this trip. He also spoke of his hope that we would return home as ambassadors for the Antarctic, and actively be involved in its precarious future.

A wonderful dinner was served by a most talented and patient restaurant staff, shaking off the ship’s motion to provide us with a most memorable evening. Shackleton’s bar was teaming after dinner, and as Pianist Chantal Sanders sent beautiful music into the air, we all celebrated the friends we made and the experiences we had on this adventure to the south.

   

We now enjoy access to the Internet in our Explorer 2 library

Some of us catch up on our reading between the continuing lectures

J.J. Apestegui updates the bulletin board with information about Antarctic invertebrates

Anne and Gerry find time for a penguin jigsaw puzzle

Bill and Maureen Chin brave the Pool Deck for a breath of fresh air after lunch in the Verandah Restaurant


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