Classic Antarctica Trip Log (27 Dec, 2017 - 8 Jan, 2018) - Friday, Dec 29

Friday, December 29: Crossing Drake Passage
January 2018

"The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind him and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean." Ernest Hemingway. We have done likewise, after rebunkering last evening in Puerto Williams, we have left Patagonia, and sailing south on very calm seas across the Drake Passage. The cleanliness and smell of the air outside is wonderful.

On the previous voyage via Falklands and South Georgia, ‘Le Lyrial’ sailed 3,200 nautical miles, or 5,760 km. On this journey, we shall sail around 1,500 nautical miles, or 2,700 km to Antarctica and back. Parkas were exchanged, and the team felt like workers in a large clothing store trying to find a garment that fitted just right. The bright red A&K parkas are lovely memento's to take home after this trip south.

Photo coach Richard Harker presented "Photographing Antarctica-What to expect and how to prepare". Since most cameras exposure readings are based on an 18% reflectivity grey scale, one generally needs to over-expose in Antarctica, to render snow white, rather than pale grey. Richard explained in detail the suggested ISO speeds to adopt, continuous/burst shooting mode and the largest JPEG quality available for those not shooting RAW images. Our friend, the histogram, was pointed out, and its many uses in attempting to secure properly exposed pictures down here. Richard provided useful homework exercises for all to attempt, that they have the hang of correct exposures, when we get on land in two days. Bo provided translation to our Chinese guests, via wonderful ear devices called Whispas.

The pool deck was busy with guests joining naturalists for assistance with bird identification, and photographic advice. Little surprise as the weather is glorious, and the ocean calm. A lone Wandering Albatross (largest wingspan on Earth) soared effortlessly alongside-what a special treat for all present. Ornithologist, Patri Silva, was up next with her beautifully illustrated talk on "Seabirds of the Southern Ocean". Patri speaks lovingly of her feathered friends, and imitates the movements of many we are likely to see perfectly. Differentiating the various Albatrosses, Gulls, Petrels and Prions can be vexing for newcomers, and the naturalists will take delight in converting all into devoted bird watchers. Patri has warned guests that she is posing a quiz at journey's end, and those with unsatisfactory results will not have their passports returned. Guests already love Patri, and her special, Uruguayan sense of humor.

Marine biologist and Whale Whisperer, Larry Hobbs, presented "Where blubber is not a bad thing-the Whales and Seals of the Southern Ocean." Larry's incredible knowledge and experience shone through, as he took us all on a journey of the evolution of whales, their respective sizes and distinguishing features, feeding patterns, etc. Believing our planet should be called Water, rather than Earth, the great mysteries for Larry have always rested in the oceans. An appropriate thought with land not visible in any direction, and two miles of water beneath us. Wonderful footage of baleen whales feeding on Krill, with their 12 foot throats expanding to 36 feet, to ingest a ton of Krill in one mouthful. A video of Orcas cooperatively creating a massive wave to wash a seal off an ice floe.

Geologist Wayne Ranney presented "The landscape history of Antarctica" as the last lecture of the day. Wayne has a very confident, engaging lecture technique, and with 33 years experience in Antarctica, fascinating insights to share. Wonderful images of the Scott-Amundsen base at the South Pole, which at 9,300 feet ASL, is 9,000 feet of ice, resting on 300 feet of bedrock. Anyone coming to Antarctica for the scenery, is really coming to this place for the geology asserts this geologist. Were all the ice held in Antarctica and Greenland to melt, world sea levels would rise 320 feet (100 meters). Most importantly, Wayne explained the composition of the Earth, Tectonic Plate shift, and the evolution of Antarctica in a manner we all understood. Imagine a peach, the core as the pip, the mantle as the fruit, and the crust as the skin-the proportions relatively correct making our planet considerably easier to imagine. Well attended, comprehensible and very well presented.

Our delightful Captain Erwan le Rouzic hosted his cocktail party, introduced his senior officers and then welcomed guests to dinner in Le Celeste restaurant downstairs on Deck 2. Nice to see almost everyone dressed for the occasion, the photographer and videographer recording the scenes for sale during the cruise. Expedition Director, Suzana, introduced the iceberg competition-first iceberg spotted larger than our vessel wins an expensive bottle of French Champagne from the Captain. No radar or bribing of Bridge officers allowed! Bright sunshine outside, a wonderful evening all round.

Click Here to read 'Saturday, December 30: Crossing the Drake Passage'