Friday, 26 November 2010

The monster is tamed

"The Drake" as it is not so fondly referred to, calmed down today and provided a relatively smooth ride for us south to Antarctica. Occasionally he bucked the ship just to remind us that he was still there but overall it was much more comfortable than yesterday. The sun shone all day which also added to the feeling of tranquility in and outside the ship, and prompted some to enjoy the rays over a nice glass of champagne!

We had a full programme of lectures on this sea-day including the mandatory IAATO (International Associated of Antarctic Tour Operators, briefings. Tourism in Antarctica is strictly controlled and these briefings give us all the information we need to behave in such a way that we do not have any negative impact on the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

The bird watchers and photographers had a "field day" today with many seabirds flying around and following the ship. Petrels, prions, and albatrosses danced in the air like kites, which made following them in the viewfinder difficult. Every now and then a group would descend to the water surface, presumably to feed on something.

Then in the early evening we spotted a few whales, only to realise that they were forerunners of a much larger group of 25 or more Humpback Whales. The ship diverted its course slightly to give us a better look, and we were not disappointed. Whales in the group each spouted on its own schedule, like so many whistles letting off steam.

We could see the characteristic, long white pectoral fins of the "humps" showing as turquoise objects just below the surface and we saw one "fin slapping"- waving its pectoral fin from one side to the other and slapping the water at each end of the arc.

We also witnessed the special sounding dives of these animals when they arch over and descend to the deeps, finally showing their amazing and uniquely patterned (on the undersurface) fluke.

To top the day off we had our Famous Fram Fashion show, where the multitalented crew, officers and expedition staff modelled the beautiful clothing available in our gift shop. Tomorrow we start our landings in Antarctica with a full day a Deception Island- an active volcano!