Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A beautiful day in the South Atlantic

Overnight on 1 November, Fram sailed out of the Rio de la Plata, which in its outer portions is not so much a river as a sea. Way across the river to the north we could just make out the coastline of Uruguay, and later in the evening the lights of the capital Montevideo could be seen in the distance. By the next morning we had reached the mouth of the river and started to feel the gentle roll imparted by the mighty South Atlantic Ocean.

Over today, Tuesday, we were very busy hearing lectures by our expedition staff on subjects such as the biology of introduced species, photography, seabirds, and learning about the Falklands conflict via an excellent, several part film (we are heading to the Falkland Islands now!)

In between our lecture/film program many of us took advantage of the bright sunshine and clear air to go out on deck and watch for wildlife. And our efforts were not in vain, for the day was full of sightings. Virtually all day we had seabirds of several different species around the vessel. These included Cayenne and South American Terns, Giant Petrels, Little and Great Shearwaters, and a few difficult petrel species, which we are still in the process of identifying. Surprisingly, we also saw quite a few Great Grebes at about 80 km offshore. Grebes are waterbirds that breed inland and usually stay close to the coast when at sea.

If these were not highlights enough, many saw their first penguins (Magellanics) and albatrosses (Black-browed) of a lifetime. They will never forget this day! We were clearly sailing through a very productive area of ocean, which these birds had discovered, and were showing to us by their presence and abundance. In addition to birds we were treated to excellent views of fur seals and sea-lions, and later in the day a humpback whale- our first but we hope not the last of the trip, appeared off the starboard side of the ship! Our first cruising day ended, appropriately, with a South Atlantic beautiful sunset.