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We awoke with the power of the Southern Ocean very evident around us. Many of us had long since acquired our sea legs, but there was still an anticipation of reaching the lee of the South American continent and the calmer seas we would encounter there. An entourage of giant-petrels circled back and forth in our wake as we ate breakfast, some gliding right past the window as we sipped our tea and gobbled our eggs. Afterwards, the pool deck was the perfect place to sit and soak in the glorious sunshine.
We joined Historian David Wilson in the Darwin Lounge for his talk “Murder in the Land of Fire: Savagery, Darwin and the tale of Jemmy Button.” As the distance between the Minerva and the southern tip of South America grew smaller and smaller, David’s lecture provided some fascinating historical background on Tierra del Fuego.
We then met with Cruise Director Jannie Cloete for a disembarkation briefing to learn about our travel details once we leave the ship in Ushuaia. This was followed by a sneak preview of the second half of the expedition DVD produced by Videographer Martin Mironovs. The footage was amazing, and our experiences in the Antarctic, South Georgia and the Falklands seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.
During Gourmet Galley Afternoon Tea, we had the opportunity to walk through the galley itself and ask questions of the chefs. After being so well fed over the past sixteen days, it was fascinating to get an inside look at the operation of the restaurant. We then gathered in the Darwin Lounge for an overview of our trip. Expedition Leader Aaron Russ summarized the exciting journey we had all taken together, and then we watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip compiled by the Expedition staff. It featured photos of our various landings, and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. There were some incredible images and we were stunned when we realized how lucky we had been with the weather and the wildlife on this amazing voyage.
We also participated in a raffle to benefit the Minerva crew welfare fund, and the Save the Albatross Fund. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a sea chart marked with our route and signed by the senior officers onboard, as well as two books about Antarctica. There was excitement in the room as the winning numbers were announced, and we were all very grateful to all those who participated and supported these causes.
The final days of this expedition have been dominated by reflection and celebration. We have reached the end of our exploration of Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. These are special places beyond description, extremely powerful and fragile at the same time. With all that we have experienced and learned, we can return home with a new found knowledge of how special this part of the world is, and how important it is to protect it for future generations.
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