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02/13/2008

Crossing the Drake Passage

As we made our way north across the body of water named for the 16th century English buccaneer and explorer Sir Francis Drake, Explorer II drove into an oncoming long swell of sometimes significant proportions. Truthfully, it was not that bad, even though said swell reached a dozen feet in height now and then, as the swells were spaced far apart. Walking about on deck, however, posed a bit of challenge once rounding the forward end of the vessel as the winds pushed with quite a steady force. We rolled a bit and pitched a bit but all and all the day at sea was perfectly moderate as Drake Passage crossings go.

After a languorous morning without wakeup calls from the dulcet soft tones of Suzana, we had the chance to provide Nigel with any additional entries for the photo contest and then to meet with him to discuss future cruises with Regent Seven Seas. Chris presented a lecture called “Cetaceans in the Modern Era: A Look at Some Conservation Issues”. He discussed the plight of cetaceans in other parts of the world, the current so-called ‘scientific whaling’ taking place in Antarctica, and the need to approach Antarctica from an ‘ecosystem management’ paradigm. Out on deck things were fairly quiet and surprisingly the only birds to be seen were a few soft-plumaged petrels. Nigel was available again for further discussions about Regent Seven Seas cruises and then we enjoyed a Waffle Treat. Executive Chefs Michael and Niels had prepared a waffle feast for us.

In the late afternoon Rich presented a timely lecture called “Albatrosses Off the Hook: Seabirds and Fisheries in the New Millennium”. Rich explained to us that many seabirds in the Southern Ocean are incidentally caught on long line fishing hooks intended for either toothfish or tuna. The birds go for the bait, get pulled under and drown, being entirely oblivious that they are unwittingly sealing their fate. Various NGOs have taken it upon themselves to mitigate the mortality of seabirds and our contributions to that effort will help preserve the lives of these long-lived birds.

We met for Captain Giovanni Biasutti’s Farewell Cocktail Party in the Main Lounge. Captain Giovanni recounted some of the more memorable, and arduous, moments of our journey, and told us that we would return home as ‘ambassadors’ for Antarctica since we had experienced some of its natural splendors first hand. He thanked Suzana for her unflagging hard work and the deck crew, (‘the long-arms of the gangway’) for theirs – and brought many of them forward for a heartfelt applause of gratitude. He noted accurately that the crew is the “soul of a ship” and that this ship’s crew is, without doubt, exemplary, and functioning like a well-oiled machine. From the engineers who had to contend with fuel requiring filtration, to the crew in all departments, everyone had done an excellent job.

Nigel announced the Photo Contest winners whilst displaying their productions. There had been 300 entries from 50 photographers, making the competition stiff. The winners had captured images of porpoising penguins, lenticular clouds, and an elephant seal. Dinner in the restaurant was a festive affair with lively talk, wine flowing, and good conversation.

   

Captain Giovanni Biasutti presents the "Best of Show" photo contest winner a book about Shackleton.

The proud winner of the penguin category in the photo contest poses with his stunning photograph!

Many passengers enjoyed relaxing with a good book while we sailed across the Drake Passage.

It was a beautiful afternoon at sea and naturalist JD chats with a passenger on the pool deck.

Waffles were the special treat served with the afternoon tea.


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