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12/10/2009

At Sea - Drake Passage

Morning found Minerva rolling in the swells but they were not living up to the fearsome reputation of the Drake Passage. The ship's stabilizers damped them sufficiently to make life on board comfortable. Moreover, the waves, and the wind driving them, diminished during the day.

As a tangible sign that our expedition is under way, everyone gathered to be issued with rubber boots. 'Wellingtons' are essential for the landings in Antarctica. There was also the opportunity to exchange our complimentary parkas for ones of a more suitable size.

The opportunity was taken to start our acquaintance with Antarctica through the series of enrichment lectures. It started appropriately with Photo Coach Richard Harker's talk on "Photography in Antarctica: What to expect and how to prepare". Nearly everyone aboard has a digital camera and will take photographs to make a permanent record of the expedition and to share their experiences with friends and family back home. Richard's coaching will be invaluable for getting the most from our cameras. Richard was followed Patricia Silva (Patri) with "Birds in Tuxedos - Why do they look so different" in which she introduced us to the penguin of the world. She told us about their natural history, population numbers and, in particular for the Antarctic penguins, their adaptations to a cold, harsh environment. She also gave us useful identifying features for the penguins we are likely to see on our voyage.

In the afternoon we listened to Antarctic ecologist Jim McClintock talk about "The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on the Antarctic Peninsula". This topic is especially relevant as world leaders are currently gathered in Copenhagen to debate the problems of and possible solutions to climate change. Jim presented information gathered in this part of the Antarctic which has been undergoing rapid warming in recent years. Finally, historian Bob Burton gave his personal view of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration in "My Favourite Heroes". Bob showed that the expeditions of Scott, Shackleton and other leaders were heroic because they struggling to explore the harshest environment in the world with inadequate equipment.

Then it was time to prepare for Captain Moulds' Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party followed Welcome Dinner.
 

   

Russ Manning helps us find the best fitting pair of boots

Patricia Silva enlightens us on the penguins we hope to see

A guest borrows scissors at Reception for fabricating a ziploc camera protector

Photo coach, Richard Harker, shares his expertise on the back deck as petrels and albatross fly about the stern of Minerva

Captain John Moulds and Hotel Manager Malcolm Cullen await the guests for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail


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