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Published: February 11th 2009
We woke up from time to time when the ship pitched particularly violently, but managed to sleep to about 7.30 a.m. - although Lisa got up for a cup of tea around four. After a shower she was feeling quite reasonable, and had a light breakfast; she seemed to be getting her sea legs.
It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky. The wind since we left South Georgia had been about 20-25 knots on our nose, and the sea height a not insignificant four to five metres. Up on the bridge John told me the wind and sea combination was slowing us down to about 9-10 knots rather than our target 13, so we had some ground to make up if our time on the Antarctic Peninsula was not to be shortened by quite a few hours.
The sea state abated as the afternoon wore on, and we passed through areas of fog and low cloud as well as sunny patches. We lazed away the late afternoon and later had dinner with Milt and Gerry. During dinner it started to snow and a couple of inches settled on colder parts of the ship. Soon
the teenagers on board were out on the aft deck making small snowmen and starting snowball fights, a scene that somehow made everybody smile.
That night, the ship’s time moved back an hour so we got some extra sleep. The next morning seemed to rush past as we continued to steam southwest at 12 knots. Mid- morning we passed close to a group of a hundred or more fin whales, the second largest of the baleen whales - they were blowing everywhere off the port side perhaps 500-800m away, and occasionally gave us a glimpse of their fins and bodies as they dived.
The air temperature was 2°C, the wind about 20-22 knots true, and the sea was probably normal for these latitudes; long swells that can make life uncomfortable for some. As it did today, the weather can change here from blue skies and clear horizons to heavy overcast, to mist, to snow - all in the space of an hour or two.
I made a few forays on deck to practise the frustrating game of shooting flying albatrosses and petrels with a 400mm lens in the swell. Not sure I will ever get skilled at
this. But I was able to see a new bird - the pretty Southern Fulmar, a grey/white gull-like petrel. Lisa played Peter the Purser and Anton, the son of doctor Magic, at table tennis in the gym - thrashed them both, of course.
Given the delay caused by skirting the storm 36 hours ago, which cost us seven or eight hours, Lou announced this evening that rather than try and reach Deception Island, we would aim instead to be at the closer Penguin Island in the morning, just off King George Island in the South Shetlands.
Over cocktails we chatted about life on Antarctic research stations with Magic (whose real name is Maciej Stronczak), Anton, Russ and Steve, and then met up for dinner with Milt and Gerry.
We awoke before six to a very calm sea and a bright sky with patches of sunlight on the water. We were approaching the South Shetland Islands, part of the true Antarctic at last, with the Peninsula about sixty nautical miles away to the south. More than 500km long, this chain of islands was discovered in 1819 by William Smith, blown off course when rounding Cape Horn. He later
claimed the islands for the British Crown and they soon became a centre for sealing - incredibly, most of the fur seals were wiped out within just two years.
Towards King George Island we spotted two Humpback Whales - a cow and her calf - breaching ahead of the ship. The Captain manoeuvred the ship as close as possible and we were privileged to watch a wonderful display of both enormous whales leaping in the air and crashing back down into the sea. Fifty years ago we would have been rushing for the harpoons...Next ➤ ➤
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