Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smooth Sailing in the Scotia Sea

17 January 2010
Scotia Sea En Route to the Antarctic Peninsula

It was another one of those pre-wakeup call days! Morten alerted us
about 6:30 am that Kerguelen Petrels were flying around the ship. Soon
enough, the bridge and monkey deck were crowded with birders, ticking
yet another life bird. Seas were incredibly flat-- so much so, that
flocks of Kerguelen Petrels were sitting on the water. What a treat!
Then, the fog rolled in.

Leader David Vander Pluym presented a lecture on the detailed life of
the world's largest seal, the Southern Elephant Seal. About 3 pm, the
fog had lifted to reveal mirror-smooth seas. Debra made an annoucement
that conditions were great, whales were ahead, and the first Southern
Fulmars had been tallied. This woke quite a few folks up from their
naps. For nearly 4 hours, all of us were transfixed with a great
assortment of wildife. None of us could be peeled away. Therefore, two
afternoon lectures were canceled, recap was canceled, and it was decided
that the briefing would be very brief!

Marine life is so often found in patches. This was so apparent during
our 4 hours of wildlife watching. We saw many Southern Fin Whales,
Southern Bottlenose Whales, Southern Elephant Seals, a Leopard Seal,
many Antarctic Fur Seals, as well as many seabirds-- all apparently
feeding on krill. The first Antarctic Tern of the voyage hovered
overhead. Many flocks of Southern Fulmars and Cape Petrels were sitting
on the glassy seas.

Finally, Chet Ogan spotted our first iceberg which was 9 miles away.
Carved with billowy, rounded mounds at the top, and layered with
multi-colored blue strips, this was a most beautiful iceberg. As we drew
closer, and closer, Captain Pruss maneuvered the ship for us to have
wonderful views and photographic opportunities. Two Chinstrap
Penguins stood on the flank of the iceberg. Comically, one slide down
the side, like a child on a sliding board. Our Captain received a round
of applause both from the bridge and the monkey deck for his expert ship
handling. At this stage, many of the passengers have developed quite an
admiration of our captain, comparing him to Sean Connery, no less!

After dinner, the staff set up a 24 hour wildlife watch on the bridge.
Who knows what is in store for us? We continue to fluff our auras! The
weather forecast is for more of the same smooth seas, tomorrow!

Albatrosses forever,
Debi Shearwater
On board Professor Multanovskiy, charter voyage

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