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01/22/2010

At sea, en route to Antarctica

We slept like logs on the gently rolling sea, and awoke to a day quite unrecognizable from the day before: flat calm seas and fog, with a small entourage of cape petrels ushering us along. After a hearty breakfast, we joined Ornithologist Rich Pagen for a lecture called “Penguins: Black and White and Guano All Over”. Rich provided a fascinating introduction to the penguins that inhabit this part of the Southern Ocean. We learned that the brush-tailed penguins build nests out of stones, and these stones are like jewels or currency to them. We left the lecture hall overwhelmed with anticipation of experiencing our first penguin colony.

We then joined the Expedition Team out on deck to scan for wildlife in the mist. The cape petrels continued to impress, their splotchy black and white coloration quite spectacular. After a good dose of fresh air, we gathered in the Darwin lounge with Expedition Leader Suzana Machado D’Oliveira Harker and Assistant Expedition Leader Aaron Russ for a mandatory briefing about conduct while ashore in Antarctica. The essential aims of this talk were to ensure that our visits there are conducted safely, and that the environment and wildlife are not disturbed by our presence.

By the time we made it back out on deck, Executive Chef Bill Anderson already had the barbeque going, and Bar Manager Chris Rose was mixing drinks for us. It was a cold and grey day, but some of us braved the elements nonetheless, and ate lunch out on the pool deck. During the afternoon, we watched the Minerva pass the South Shetland Islands en route to tomorrow’s stop on the Antarctic Peninsula. Penguins were jumping ahead of the ship, and a minke whale was observed for several minutes racing along the port side of the ship.

After some laps on the Promenade Deck, we met Photo Coach Richard Harker in the Darwin lounge for his presentation entitled, “Mastering your digital camera”. Richard went into detail on many of the features of today’s digital cameras, including concepts like histograms and exposure compensation, which would help us greatly in capturing Antarctica in photos.

The final enrichment lecture of the day, given by Geologist Henry Pollack, was entitled “Plate tectonics and continental drift: How Antarctic came to the South Pole”. Henry explained the basics of plate tectonics with examples of different types of plate movements from all over the world. He then went into detail on the factors that contributed to bringing Antarctica to its present position on the bottom of the planet.

Before dinner, we gathered for Recap, during which the Expedition Staff went over some of the highlights of the day and briefed us on our plans for tomorrow in Antarctica. Ornithologist Rich Pagen presented the results of our crossing of the Antarctic Convergence, showing that the Minerva had crossed the Convergence during the late afternoon and evening yesterday, placing us squarely now in Antarctic waters. Historian John Dudeney introduced us to the story of Otto Nordenskjøld’s 1901-4 Swedish Antarctic Expedition, and the unlikely circumstances that caused three different parties to become separated from one another, resulting in them overwintering in the same area we hope to visit tomorrow.
 

   

Passengers watch the sea birds following the ship and try to get a good photo of them!

Marine Mammalogist Chris Cutler tries to make his point while talking to some guests.

With calm seas, it was easy to play cards in the library.

Expedition Leader Suzana presents the mandatory IAATO briefing that all passengers going to Antarctica are required to attend.

The first iceberg was spotted mid afternoon and the spotter won a bottle of champagne!


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