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Friday, 9 November 2007
At sea

We are heading towards the Falkland Islands over a calm sea and under blue skies. When we got up we were leaving the shelter of the Beagle Channel and entering open sea. But there was no need to find our sealegs! The first business of the day was Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs' introduction to the cruise programme. He pointed out that this is not so much a cruise as an expedition. Our itinerary is dependent on wind and weather – and perhaps also on the ice in Antarctica. Plans may have to be modified as we go along but there is no doubt that we are going to have a great experience. Larry told us how we will use zodiac inflatable boats to land for our explorations. These boats are extremely reliable and the naturalists who drive them all have many years of experience of working in Antarctica. Larry's briefing gave us simple instructions on how embark and disembark in complete safety.

Already the oceanic birds are beginning to follow 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. But before she could finish her lecture, Captain Moulds announced from the bridge that some fin whales had been sighted. We rushed onto the decks, but there was no need to hurry. The captain had brought the ship close to the whales and we had grandstand views of three fin whales, including a mother with her calf. The whales seemed to be just as interested in us and surfaced frequently within 100 yards of the ship, and we could even see their unique asymmetric coloring: white on one side of the jaw.

Most of the afternoon was spent in the bright sunshine watching the seabirds and even more fin whales. What a marvellous introduction to the wildlife of the Southern Ocean!

Then it was time for another talk: 'The Falkland Medley'. This was an introduction by the lecturers to the history, geology, plants, birds and whales of these remote and fascinating islands, and it was followed by Larry's briefing on tomorrow's landings. Another change of tempo brought us to Captain 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.


Today we had presentations in the main lounge on Sea Birds and The Falklands.

A mother and calf fin whale

Whale watching in the morning

Bird watching on a calm sunny day.

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