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Published: January 5th 2014
So, I got on a ship, the Sea Spirit! I have a contract with an expedition company to go on several Antarctic voyages... I will talk more about my roll in later blogs but first I'll introduce my first taste of the South Atlantic...
The MV Sea Spirit cruised out of the Port of Ushuaia, through the Beagle Channel and into the open waters of the South Atlantic Ocean followed by an entourage of seabirds. Cape Petrels and Great Shearwaters circled above the wake of the ship, snatching up fish scraps and other tasty food while the mountains of Tierra Del Fuego were consumed by the ocean. It was amazing to watch the continent of South America disappear...
Early the next morning as we slowly chugged across the big blue sea, we were treated to a spectacular pod of long-finned pilot whales frolicking really close to the ship. They played for about an hour as we enjoyed some amazing views of these spectacular animals. Of course by this time, our entourage of seabirds had grown and diversified, thus adding to the
magic of whale watching. We also spotted fin whales in the distance! Fin whales are the
second biggest creatures on Earth. What an honour to have witnessed them...
The days at sea are spent watching wildlife from the decks and attending lectures about the various regions we'll be visiting, the wildlife and history. Sea days are also about eating food! The food on the ship is rather excellent and in abundance!
We sailed through another day and night before arriving at the Falkland Islands, a small, windswept, isolated island group in the South Atlantic. The Falklands consist of two main islands and about 750 smaller ones, all of which are remote, windy, rugged and treeless (except for ornamental imports). The ship anchored a mile or so off shore and we made our first Zodiac landing on Carcass Island in the north-west to see the huge rookeries of gentoo and megallanic penguins as well as the nesting sites of the black-browed albatrosses. It was a beautiful place where wildlife rules the show. They have evolved with no land predators and as a result have little to no fear of humans. We wandered around these areas and the penguins and other birds just went about their business as usual... We also saw the cobb's wren and
the Falkland flightless steamer duck which are both endemic to the Falklands - very cool!
On Saunder's Island, which is also in the northwest, we hiked through more penguin rookeries, this time visiting with rockhopper and king penguins. We also saw the first chicks of the year, which was a real treat. The rockhoppers
were hilarious as they jumped up the rocks (hence their name) stumbling and sliding and crashing into each other.
I was on Zodiac duty for a while so I got to explore a litle bit of the coast by myself as I waited to shuttle people back to the ship. I spent most of that time bobbing up and down on the bay with the engine shut off, I was lying over the bow of the boat watching peguins swimming and diving beneath me - it was mesmerizing!
"Warm, calm and dry, but cool with wind and rain..." That was the weather forecast for Stanley, the capital of Falkland. About three quarters of the island's population of 2500 live in Stanley and it is quite quirky! It's very British, quite evident after looking at all the anti-Argentina signs! There's still a fair bit of
bitterness between the locals and the war of
1982 which was described to me by one local as "two bald men fighting over a comb." It was really strange for me to see British flags and vehicles whilst listening to very British accents with a twang of something that isn't British... They have a great accent on the islands, typically British, but not from the British Isles - it's odd, like many things on the islands. And of course, they drive on the left and sell Monster Munch and Club Biscuits in the shops!
When visiting the Falklands, it would only be right to have typical British meal in a pub, so we went to The Victory Inn for a pint of John Smith's and scampi and chips. The woman who worked there was a gem! Cranky, grumpy and funny, and not to be messed with! She just yelled at everyone and had no manners or sevice skills - it was like being served at Fawlty Towers! I got into trouble because I didn't show up at the bar the instant my name was called for my Scampi...
"Dave! Scampi!", she yelled, then less than 3 seconds later, "Dave
your scampi's getting cold, come and get it NOW!" It was awesome! She yelled at everyone, not just me...
Before leaving the pub I stocked up on some treats to eat onboard the ship - some nice British snacks! A taste of home, away from home...
Back on the ship, we departed the Port of Stanley and headed to another, even more remote British Overseas Dependency... The journey took two full days on a very rough sea!
Stay tuned... oh, where is Theresa you ask? Oh, she'll be along soon...
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