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01/07/2010

At Sea, En route to South Georgia

The rocking and rolling began as soon as Minerva left the lee of the Falklands late last night. Prostrate on our beds, we experimented with different sleeping positions to determine which was most effective at facilitating slumber, despite the frequent shaking and shimmying of the ship. We awoke to calmer seas and many of us took our morning tea out on deck to soak up the sunshine.

The first enrichment lecture of the day, “Where leviathans flourish: Introduction to cetaceans of the Southern Ocean”, was given by Marine Mammalogist Chris Cutler. It was fascinating to learn that the hippopotamus is the closest living relative to the cetaceans. Chris also spoke of whale longevity, including the fact that a bowhead whale from the Arctic was recently aged at 130 years, making it the oldest known living animal in the world!

Following Chris’ talk, we joined the Naturalists out on deck to scan the sea for whales and seabirds. A few lucky souls caught a brief look at what were likely Southern Bottlenose Whales. This started the adrenalin pumping and reminded us that whale sightings can happen at any time and can be quite fleeting. We resigned ourselves to spending as much time as possible watching for these magnificent creatures.

Before lunch, we joined Historian John Dudeney for his fascinating assessment of the quest to be the first to reach the South Pole. During his presentation, “Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton: The race to the Pole, who won, who lost?”, John painted an intricate picture of each man, his personality, and his attitude towards his accomplishments. We left the Darwin lounge with a much better insight into the minds of these three remarkable men.

Following the lunchtime Stir Fry On Deck with Executive Chef Bill Anderson and Bar Manager Chris Rose, we slipped away for a nap before joining Geologist Monte Marshall for his overview of “The geology of the Falkland Islands”. Monte began the talk by showing a computer simulation of how the supercontinent of Pangaea began splitting apart 150 million years ago, dragging what is now the Falkland Islands from the southeastern tip of Africa over to its current location off of southeastern South America. He also went through the types of situations that lead to the formation of oil and natural gas, suggesting that the conditions are right for such deposits around the Falkland Islands.

This was followed by Ornithologist Patricia Silva’s introduction to penguins entitled, “Birds in tuxedos: Why do they look different?”. Patricia began with the very accurate premise that of all the over 8,800 species of birds in the world, the penguins are like no others. She highlighted some of the species we may encounter on this trip including the Adelies, which march many miles over the sea ice in October to reach the sites of their breeding colonies.

Before dinner, we gathered in the Darwin lounge for the first of our daily Recaps. Historian John Dudeney spoke of his experience as part of the British Antarctic Survey during the 1982 Falklands War. We also learned about the stone runs of the Falklands from Geologist Monte Marshall, and the causes and effects of the Antarctic Convergence from Naturalist Rich Pagen. We then headed off to the Dining Room, followed by a much quieter night’s sleep.
 

   

There were relatively calm seas as passengers went on deck to learn to identify sea birds.

A Southern Giant Petrel flies overhead as it scans for food.

Assistant Expedition Leader Aaron Russ and Naturalist Rich Pagen (in yellow parkas) explain the finer points of bird identification to interested guests.

A couple relaxes on the pool deck while taking a break from photographing birds.

A group of new friends enjoys a delicious dinner together in the main dining room.


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