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02/09/2009

At Sea

Many of us slept like logs, having been gently rocked to sleep by the ship’s movement the night before. We awoke to a new world, one filled with a view of ocean in all directions, and our first glimpses of albatrosses careening in the ship’s wake. The South American continent was now far behind us, and sipping coffee on the back deck was a great way to take it all in.

Our day began with a big breakfast, and then the opportunity to exchange our parkas for better-fitting ones, and to borrow rubber boots if we had not brought our own. During our first enrichment lecture, Photo Enrichment Coach Richard Harker gathered beginner and professional photographers alike into the lounge for his talk, “Photography in Antarctica – What to expect and how to prepare”. He covered everything from protecting our camera equipment from unpredictable weather, to understanding how to best deal with the challenging lighting situations that are the norm in Antarctica. We left feeling both empowered and excited to go out and capture that perfect shot.

Ornithologist Rich Pagen followed with a lecture entitled “Seabirds at Sea: Ambassadors of the Southern Ocean”. Rich highlighted some of the species we would see out in the open ocean, told stories of their amazing long distance travel abilities, and presented beautiful photos that made us all want to spend every waking moment out on deck, in the hope of catching a glimpse of some of these striking birds.

After a relaxing lunch and some time out on deck, we met Geologist Martin Berg for his talk, “Ice and glaciers: Basics about glaciology and the ice of Antarctica”. We were fascinated to learn that Antarctica consists of two separate ice domes, the weight of which has actually pushed much of the bedrock of Antarctica below sea level. We also came to understand how ice flows downward due to gravity much like water, and that 70% of the world’s fresh water currently resides in the ice of Antarctica. We came away excited to spot our first iceberg, a harbinger of the frozen world that lies ahead.

Before afternoon tea, we wandered the outer decks to scan the horizon for wildlife. The yellow jackets of the Expedition staff were ubiquitous and we stopped to ask questions about the birds flying past the ship, or just to introduce ourselves. We then met Historian David Wilson for his talk entitled, “Blubber, blubber, oil and trouble”. David went through the relationship of humans to the Antarctic, starting with the first guess that a southern continent might exist, all the way up to the modern day workings of the Antarctic Treaty. Each chapter in history gave us an appreciation for the tremendous unknowns that explorers faced, and David’s rundown of the derivations of many of the place names in the Antarctic really made tangible for us the incredible human history in this stark and unforgiving part of the world.

We then all donned our Sunday best and met Captain Giovanni Biasutti and many other members of the ship’s staff in the main lounge for the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, carefully swaying back and forth with the ship as we mingled over champagne. The Captain announced a competition for spotting the first iceberg of the trip, and gave us permission to come up and visit his officers on the bridge. He then introduced his staff and it became clear that, just like those of us traveling as passengers, the crew has a very international flare. We all had a very enjoyable evening that was rounded off by a superb gala dinner.
 

   

We're fitted with rubber boots

The Great Parka Exchange

Time out for a manicure in the Beauty Salon

We have lovely weather for albatross observation

Captain's Welcome Cocktails are well attended


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