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01/04/2008

Drake Passage and Beagle Channel to Ushuaia

 Throughout the night, we rolled a bit in a progressively rougher Drake Passage.  Despite the rolling and lurching of the ship, some hardy souls made it to the main lounge for Chris’s lecture, “Contemporary Cetaceans: Conservation Perspectives on Whales and Dolphins.”  Chris told us about conservation issues affecting cetaceans globally but focused on the so-called scientific whaling now taking place in Antarctic waters, which this year will take hundreds of minke whales.  The “young explorers” joined Carol and Cathy to practice the dance they would surprise us with later in the evening.  Jannie then held a Disembarkation Briefing to inform us of the procedures for leaving the ship in Ushuaia.  At midday videographer Nathalie gave us a sneak preview in the main lounge of her DVD of the second part of our voyage.  Her footage of the feeding humpback whale in Paradise Harbor was especially nice.    

 During lunch, we noticed that we no longer had to arrest our sliding silverware.  Captain Moulds announced that we had rounded Cape Horn and now traveled in the lee of the land, the southernmost extension of South America.  After an Austrian Strudel Buffet, we gathered in the main lounge for “On Expedition,” a retrospective of our trip.  Marco told us that our days of rough weather had been a challenge for him, and Jannie mentioned that he had never had to change the program so many times.  Despite the vagaries of the elements, or rather because of them, we came away with the sense that we had truly experienced the Southern Ocean and its lands.  Sally held the bucket for a passenger to pull the winning raffle ticket for the Save the Albatross fundraiser.  The winner, Lord Thomas Richard Gisborough, received a beautiful drawing of penguins done by Patricia, and he graciously spoke on behalf of the passengers in complimenting the ship’s workers for a memorable trip.  Francois LeRoux won a marine chart in the Crew Welfare Fund raffle.  Jannie announced that the generous contributions of passengers had raised U.S. $1,310 for the Save the Albatross campaign and $2,390 for the Crew Welfare Fund. 

The “young explorers” entertained us with a dance that Carol had choreographed and they had worked hard to perfect, “Drive that Zodiac.”  As Carol narrated, the dancers enacted the behavioral repertoire of the zodiac driver, including starting the engine, pointing out wildlife, and driving fast.  Afterwards, we viewed a slideshow of our trip produced by Carol from photos contributed by the staff and a few passengers.  The beautiful images of people, landscapes, and wildlife made us realize the fullness of all we had seen and experienced.  Marco thanked the expedition staff, and Russ thanked Marco for his excellent leadership. 

 In the early evening, the sun made an appearance.  Sara pointed out the wreck of the 100-meter ship Logos, which carried a cargo of Bibles and foundered in a storm on January 1, 1988.  Outside, the air felt balmy, as if we had just stepped into summer.  Even after a relatively short visit to the cold south, it seemed remarkable to see trees again.  Between the ship and the verdant coast were black-browed albatross, South American terns, rock shags, and imperial cormorants.  After a final dinner onboard, and perhaps a nightcap in the Shackleton bar, we arrived at the dock in Ushuaia around 2300.

   

Passengers fill the main lounge in anticipation of the final slide show that will review their entire voyage.

For the final recap, the kids performed a new dance that they invented called Drive That Zodiac!

The weather was mild and beautiful as we sailed up the Beagle Channel.

Many Cape Petrels accompanied the Explorer II as she entered the Beagle Channel on her way to Ushuaia.

As we neared Ushuaia, our wake seemed to signify the end of a fantastic voyage to an otherworldly land known as Antarctica.


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