Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands Trip Log (12 - 28 Dec 2017) – Thursday, Dec 14

Thursday, December 14: Sailing the Scotia Sea
January 2018

Ernest Hemingway wrote “The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.”

Bunkering of fuel lasted until 1am, before we could proceed down the Beagle Channel and enter the open ocean. Early morning found Le Lyrial running fast up the east coast of South America, on a calm sea. When we turned eastwards towards the Falklands, as the Captain warned us, the swell picked up producing some movement end to end of the ship. The expedition team had a busy time exchanging parkas, boots and waterproof trousers for guests. Inevitably, there are quite a few guests still finding their "sea legs", feeling queasy and avoiding meals and lectures. Patri Silva gave a marvellous lecture on Seabirds of the Southern Ocean. Seabirds being defined as those spending a significant part of their lives in a marine environment. With fantastic images, Patri showed us the more common birds we are likely to see, and the tube-nosed birds with their particularly unique manner of dealing with salt water ingestion. The dangers of introduced predators, long-line fishing and plastic in the ocean were highlighted. Some were daunted by the variety of Albatrosses, Petrels, Fulmars, Prions and Shearwaters, others fascinated. Photographer Richard Harker was up next, with his very interesting talk on what to expect and how to prepare when photographing Antarctica. He highlighted the advantages of visiting this early in the season, with pristine snow, typical Antarctic scenes everyone dreams of seeing, and the presence of nesting birds with eggs rather than young chicks. Richard's photographic knowledge and experience in Antarctica is very impressive. He provided invaluable tips for the guests on how to prepare themselves and their equipment, along with tips on how to take great photos in this extraordinary environment. Of his many wonderful images, the one most guests remembered showed Richard standing with all his equipment, absolutely covered in snow.

Ian Miller, geologist/paleontologist from Denver, gave us some insights into the geology of the areas we will visit, bordering the Scotia Plate. Mid-afternoon is never an easy time to present, and particularly not when tectonic plates, subduction zones, rifts and trenches along with the other aspects of this complex subject are being considered. The stone rivers of the Falklands created largely from a freeze/thaw action over millenia will be of great interest during our visits tomorrow. Antarctica would be a shadow of her present self, were it not for the massive ice sheets making up more than 95% of the continent, and raising it significantly above sea level.

Fin Whales and a pod of Orcas, including a huge male, created great excitement at 4.30pm. Dozens of guests lined the decks hoping to catch glimpses of these beautiful denizens of the deep. The naturalists assisted in identifying the abundant seabirds about the ship. Sadly they will realize that wildlife viewing, especially at sea, requires infinite patience, powerful observation skills, and plenty of good fortune. In these climes, appropriate clothing too!

Members of the team shared some insights into the Falklands, and what to expect tomorrow. Pete Clement who was born and raised in the Falklands gave fascinating glimpses into a society and land he loves passionately. Suzana warned of cool, windy conditions, and as expected the Rockhopper Penguin tours are fully subscribed. Most folks to these parts cannot wait to see their first penguins.

The evening comprised Captain's welcome, where our Captain Le Rouzic introduced the senior officers. A sumptious dinner followed in Le Ce'le'ste restaurant on Deck 2. 

Click here to read 'Friday December 15: Stanley Falkland Islands'