Classic Antarctica Trip Log (27 Dec, 2017 - 8 Jan, 2018) - Friday, Jan 5

Friday, January 5: Crossing the Drake
January 2018

"And now to conclude. Is it worth doing? Ask any member of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and you will receive the reply-Yes, I wouldn't miss it for the world. Would you go again? Rather, such is the call of the South!" TH Orde-Lees, diary of the Endurance Expedition. As we sail across the infamous Drake Passage, in unusually calm conditions, I very much hope that those on board have become Antarctic ambassadors, and that they will wish to return one day. Such is the call of the South, and its little white voices. This expedition in particular has enjoyed calm seas, incredible weather and an impressive miscellany of landing environments.

Storyteller Rob Caskie opened the enrichment lecture program on board today with his tale about Shackleton's Endurance Expedition, on which the impressively fit Orde-Lees was storekeeper, and a somewhat pedantic one at that. This saga beggars belief, their ship crushed by ice, man-hauling boats across the ice floes, then a desperate rowing for 108 hours without warm drink or meal before landfall on Elephant Island (after 17 months at sea or on the ice). In one of the greatest feats of navigation in history, Shackleton and 5 men sailed their James Caird lifeboat 800 miles to South Georgia, seeking help. The 22 souls left on Elephant Island under Commander Frank Wild were eventually rescued on 30 August 1916, after 4 horrific months enduring a second Antarctic winter. One of the finest survival stories in modern times. During the morning, guests handed back their waterproof boots and trousers, rented from Ship to Shore Traveller. These will be cleaned and prepared for rental next season-a wonderful facility for our guests. Many guests are playing cards in the Grand Salon, chatting, and some editing photographs. There is an air of bewilderment that this unique, life-changing adventure is practically over, as we sail back towards Ushuaia.

Photo coach Richard Harker's lecture on digital workflow, and post production editing was interrupted by Orcas about the ship, as was Rob Caskie's session with Young Explorers about Shackleton. Finding a large group of Orcas this far out in the Drake Passage is unusual, and they granted us magnificent, close-up opportunities to view them. The males with their high dorsal fins, females and youngsters all about the ship, at times swimming beneath the vessel. The height advantage offered by a ship is the best platform from which to view any whale species, and these sightings were spectacular. Larry Hobbs identified them as being rare Type D Killer Whales, with relatively small eye patches, and the size/colour of the cream patch on their backs. This group last filmed in 2015, so indeed a very rare sighting. Viewing these top predators ease and power in the water is awe-inspiring. Guests were able to take great photographs. This experience the cherry on the top of this fantastic expedition.

After a wonderful lunch with a distinctly Asian feel today, Geralyn Garavan from A&K presented the ever-growing portfolio of destinations A&K have on offer. Arctic, Japanese and Antarctic expeditions becoming most sought-after. Whilst naturalists were out on deck assisting guests with seabird identification, Richard Harker assisted with camera-related queries. Richard's awesome photographs, shared every evening before Recaps, a very clear indicator of his skill with camera and editing, along with iPhonography, as he calls it.

Patri Silva moved the audience with her talk titled "Albatross-We have a problem!" Highlighting the threats to these magnificent creatures who pair for life, live to 60 years and fly thousands of miles on foraging trips, especially long-line fisheries. With vivid images and commentary, Patri left us in no doubt the serious threat these birds are under, and what is being done in attempting to reduce the threat. These include deploying long lines at night and encapsulating the bait in a cover which only opens at a certain depth out of reach of the birds. The scale beggars belief. Patagonian Toothfish long-liners deploy two lines of 30km length, with a baited hook every meter, so 60 000 baited hooks, pulled in by powerful winches. Ultimately, time will tell whether the fisheries and/or the bird populations are sustainable. Very sobering and thought provoking indeed

Guests enjoyed tea and wonderful French Macaroons, before Larry Hobbs lecture on Sustainability and his experiences over 50 years of Marine Biology and environmental studies. Larry feels strongly that culturally we are asking the wrong questions, and that change will only happen from the bottom up. Referring to the National Geographic articles on how are we going to feed 7 billion people, Larry argues that we should be asking why are there 7 billion people to feed? Relating his unique experiences with wildlife around the globe, including fitting radio collars to the backs of young Grey Whales, Larry's presentation was personable, honest and thought-provoking, from a human being who genuinely "walks the talk."

Tonight we enjoyed the Captain's Farewell cocktail party and dinner. All staff were brought out on stage, which is wonderful, since most guests never even glimpse many of the 155 staff who live below decks and keep Le Lyrial functioning properly. Dinner in Le Celeste restaurant was magnificent, everyone clearly enjoying their second last evening on board with A&K.

Click Here to read 'Saturday, January 6: Crossing the Drake Passage and Sailing the Beagle Channel'