Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Price of Admission

This summer has been unusually calm on Drake Passage.  Everyone on the Expedition Team has remarked on it, however, today things are back to normal.  Fram had pitched and rolled all through the night. This morning we had winds in excess of 40 knots that were producing seas of 5 - 6 metres. It was decidedly uncomfortable.  Many people were seen carrying plain white paper bags everywhere they went and many people weren’t seen at all.  They were having some “quiet time” in their cabin.  Still, if you weren’t prone to sea sickness, it was a beautiful day.  We had a mixture of sun and cloud.  The rough blue ocean was beautiful.  Giant Wandering Albatross soared around the ship as well as Cape Petrels, Southern Giant Petrels and Black-browed Albatross.  We even had fly-bys from Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and a Grey-headed Albatross.

There are always those people who arrive on Fram who say, “Oh, I hope we have a storm.  I’ve heard about Drake Passage and I would really like to experience a storm.”  I wince every time I hear those words.  A real storm just isn’t a whole lot of fun.  In fact, if you get caught in really serious weather, it can be downright frightening.  I’m sure that today’s bouncy weather would have satisfied the storm wishers.
At 18:15 we spotted the distant blows of whales.  In fact there seemed to be quite a few; however none of them were on our course or lose to the ship.  The consensus was that they were Humpbacks but it was difficult to make a positive identification.
Sea days on Fram are lecture days and we had plenty of them on the schedule.  In fact because we have an international crowd we had a total of nine lectures scheduled in three different languages; French, German and English.

By late afternoon, early evening, you could notice that the seas and winds were beginning to drop.  With Fram’s excellent stabilizers, the ride was now quite comfortable.  Just a little bit of bump and roll with a pitch.  If the price of admission to Antarctica is to cross the inhospitable Drake, then this seemed to be a fair price.