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12/11/2007

At sea, Drake Passage

We are heading across the Drake Passage under blue skies but with some wind and swell. Luckily Explorer II is a stable ship and not many of us are upset by the unaccustomed motion. The day started with the Grand Parka-swap and Boot Issue, where we could exchange our complimentary red parkas for a better size and borrow wellington (rubber) boots for the duration of the cruise. Like all sea-days without any landings, there was a full day of lectures. Already oceanic birds are following the ship and it was fitting that the first lecture was by ornithologist Patricia Silva on 'The seabirds of the Southern Ocean'. She introduced us to the albatrosses and petrels that will accompany Explorer II throughout the cruise. She was followed by Charley Wheatley's 'Fur-lined, web-footed wonders of the Antarctic: An introduction to the seals of the Southern Ocean.' Charley provided valuable insights into seal biology and introduced us to the fascinating life histories of the seals that we are likely to encounter in the Antarctic Peninsula.

After lunch, geologist Henry Pollack told us about 'Earth's changing climate: What's in store for the future.' This is a talk of topical interest and we will be seeing signs of climate change over the next few days. There followed the chance for a breath of fresh air when we could join the naturalists on deck to watch the seabirds. The sun was shining and the delicate, streamlined bodies of the birds stood out against the dramatically heaving swells. Then it was back inside for historian Bob Burton's discussion of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. This was the time of Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton and lasted from about 1895 to Shackleton's death in 1922. Bob made the point that exploration was heroic because expeditions were trying to explore the most inhospitable part of the world with totally inadequate equipment but amazing strength of character.

Another change of tempo (and dress!) brought us to Captain John Mould's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and Dinner, a convivial evening celebrating a magnificent start to the cruise with fellow passengers who are fast becoming friends.

   

There was a chance to make sure we had the perfect fitting parka this morning.

There were two magnificent Royal Albatross swirling around the Explorer II early this morning.

Captain John Moulds greeted us as we enjoyed the welcoming cocktail party.

The officers were all decked out in their finery for the cocktail party.


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