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02/16/2008

At Sea

Many of us slept like logs, having been gently rocked to sleep by the ship’s movement the night before. We awoke to a new world, one filled with a view of ocean in all directions, and our first giant petrels and white-chinned petrels careening in the ship’s wake. The South American continent was now far behind us, and sipping coffee on the back deck was a great way to take it all in.

Our day began with a big breakfast, and then the opportunity to exchange our parkas for better-fitting ones, and to borrow rubber boots if we had not brought our own. During our first enrichment lecture, “Seabirds at Sea: Ambassadors of the Southern Ocean”, Ornithologist Rich Pagen highlighted some of the species we would see out in the open ocean, told stories of their amazing long distance travel abilities, and presented beautiful photos that made us all want to spend every waking moment out on deck, in the hope of catching a glimpse of some of these striking birds. Before lunch, Photo Enrichment Coach Richard Harker gathered beginner and professional photographers alike into the lounge for his talk, “Photography in Antarctica – What to Expect and How to Prepare”. He covered everything from protecting our camera equipment from unpredictable weather, to understanding how to best deal with the challenging lighting situations that are the norm in Antarctica. We left feeling both empowered and excited to go out and capture that perfect shot.

Accompanied by calm seas and the sounds of the Explorer II Quartet, we gathered on the pool deck for a Southern Ocean Früschoppen. The beer flowed freely as many of us circled the Promenade deck for some exercise before heading back to the Main Lounge for Geologist Norbert Roland’s lecture “Antarctica: Continent of Extremes and Superlatives”. With some truly fantastic images, Norbert discussed the geological history of the continent, formerly a much more temperate place where dinosaurs roamed. He showed a three dimensional image of just how much more ice there once was on the continent during the Pleistocene glacial maximum, and gave us an appreciation for how extreme a place Antarctica really is.

Following afternoon tea and a few questions for Photo Enrichment Coach Richard Harker in the card room, we gathered for the final lecture of the day, “Whales of the Great White South” by Marine Mammalogist Mark Deakos. He provided us with a good understanding of what species we may encounter on our travels in the Southern Ocean, and what characteristics we should look for in identifying them.

We then all donned our Sunday best and met Captain Giovanni Biasutti and many other members of the ship’s staff in the main lounge for the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, carefully swaying back and forth with the ship as we mingled over champagne. The Captain announced a competition for spotting the first iceberg of the trip, and gave us permission to come up and visit his officers on the bridge. He then introduced his staff and it became clear that, just like those of us traveling as passengers, the crew has a very international flare. We all had a very enjoyable evening that was rounded off by a superb gala dinner.


   

Our staff is on hand to make the perfect parka fit

Meanwhile the 'Mudroom' becomes the boot fitting center

Our Hotel Department puts on a magnificent Austrian fruschopen in the open air

The Explorer 2 Quartet livens up our luncheon with some festive music

Photo coach, Richard Harker, offers assistance on the Pool Deck


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