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01/16/2009

At Sea

We awoke to a foggy morning, in more ways than one. Our time in Antarctica, busy with landings and zodiac tours, had truly worn us out. Add to that a bit of rocking from the Drake Passage swell, and most of us found it a tad difficult to get up from under the blankets. Once we did, we saw that the Prince Albert II was in a fog as well, cutting her way through the mist en route to Ushuaia.

After breakfast, we groggily strolled into the theater for Ornithologist Rich Pagen’s lecture, “Albatrosses off the hook: Seabirds and fisheries in the new millennium”. Luckily, he was playing some Marvin Gaye over the speaker system, so by the time he began the talk, we had our groove on and our eyes had opened substantially. Rich spoke about the issue of bycatch in fishing, specifically the accidental catch of albatrosses and petrels in the Southern Ocean longline fishery for Patagonian toothfish. He presented the declining population trends for several seabird species, and then explained some of the techniques which are being used on fishing boats to keep seabirds from drowning on fishing hooks. He also presented us with a challenge to become involved in this and other issues, using our power as citizens and consumers to solve conservation problems worldwide.

We then participated in an emergency drill onboard the Prince Albert II, first gathering at our muster station in the theater, and then being evacuated to the lifeboats. We even had the opportunity to sit inside the lifeboat, and to ask questions about what it would be like if we had to actually abandon the ship. One of our major concerns was the lack of a bathroom on the lifeboat, which made the toilet paper shortage issue on the Prince Albert II seem like a walk in the park in comparison.

We then met for a talk by special guest Eric Whitacre entitled, “Chocolate: Good things from Earth’s garden”. Eric took us back to chocolate’s beginnings, as well as through the process of making chocolate from cacao. Considering the extent to which chocolate was an integral part of this expedition, the subject was particularly appropriate and we all learned a lot.

After a relaxing lunch and a nap, we met in our penguin groups to discuss our experiences on the trip, and to decide what we might share with the entire group tomorrow at Final Recap to summarize our thoughts on our journey. We then headed outside for some fresh air and to afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge before meeting Marine Biologist Charley Wheatley for his talk, “The future of the oceans”. Charley eloquently shared his concern for the human impact on the world’s oceans, touching on the issues of plastics, pollution, increases in CO2 in the ocean from climate change, as well as overfishing. He closed with his thoughts on solutions to these problems, and urged us to think about what role we might choose to play in these solutions.

Back in our state rooms, we showered and cleaned up before heading up to the Panorama Lounge for a drink. We then met the Expedition Staff for a light-hearted Natural History Quiz, led by Geologist Ralph Eshelman. We were amazed to realize how much we had learned over the past three weeks. Following dinner, many of us sang our hearts out at final karaoke before heading to our beds where the Southern Ocean rocked us to sleep.
 

   

Calm seas accompanied us as we headed northbound across the Drake Passage

Spending time on the bridge learning from the officers

Giant petrels accompanied the ship throughout the day

Learning about shipboard safety from our safety officer and crewmembers

The great Antarctic quiz was a fun way to review a lot of what we had learned on the voyage


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