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“The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind him and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.” Ernest Hemingway.

We have done likewise, after rebunkering last evening in Puerto Williams, we have left Patagonia, and sailing south on very calm seas across the Drake Passage. The cleanliness and smell of the air outside is wonderful.
On the previous voyage via Falklands and South Georgia, Le Lyrial sailed 3200 nautical miles, or 5760km. On this journey, we shall sail around 1500 nautical miles, or 2700km to Antarctica and back.
Parkas were exchanged, and the team felt like workers in a large clothing store trying to find a garment that fitted just right. The bright red A&K parkas are lovely memento’s to take home after this trip south.

Photo coach Richard Harker presented “Photographing Antarctica – What to expect and how to prepare”. Since most cameras exposure readings are based on an 18% reflectivity grey scale, one generally needs to over-expose in Antarctica, to render snow white, rather than pale grey. Richard explained in detail the suggested ISO speeds to adopt, continuous/burst shooting mode and the largest JPEG quality available for those not shooting RAW images. Our friend, the histogram, was pointed out, and its many uses in attempting to secure properly exposed pictures down here. Richard provided useful homework exercises for all to attempt, that they have the hang of correct exposures, etc when we get on land in two days. Bo provided translation to our Chinese guests, via wonderful ear devices called Whispas.

The pool deck was busy with guests joining naturalists for assistance with bird identification, and photographic advice. Little surprise as the weather is glorious, and the ocean calm. A lone Wandering Albatross (largest wingspan on Earth) soared effortlessly alongside – what a special treat for all present. Ornithologist, Patri Silva, was up next with her beautifully illustrated talk on “Seabirds of the Southern Ocean”. Patri speaks lovingly of her feathered friends, and imitates the movements of many we are likely to see perfectly. Differentiating the various Albatrosses, Gulls, Petrels and Prions can be vexing for newcomers, and the naturalists will take delight in converting all into devoted bird watchers. Patri has warned guests that she is posing a quiz at journey’s end, and those with unsatisfactory results will not have their passports returned. Guests already love Patri, and her special, Uruguayan sense of humour.

I was chatting to the musicians this morning – one from Italy, interpreting for the French piano player. The piano was tuned in Ushuaia, by a fellow who has been doing it for years. He has an enormous beard, second only in my opinion to Kingsley Holgate’s. Anyway, the Frenchman made it very clear that the piano is not satisfactorily tuned, and he is deeply distressed by it all. My suggestion that the beard may interfere with the tuning process was not well received. Being the only piano tuner in Ushuaia, I assume, provides no choice? I have been trying to go and spin in the gym, when time permits. So wishing I had the cycling skills/fitness of friends like Craig and Chantel Carter, and Francois Reynecke. Anyway, to make it more interesting the rolling motion of the ship gives one the impression of riding on a massive undulating track-up and down. These stationary bikes have imaginary routes on a screen, and I would love to know how they were created, as one regularly feels as if you are going to hit a dog, or a runner, only to swerve at the last moment! It is far more relaxing to watch the ocean looking for whales. A white Bulldog scared the daylights out of me when it refused to move, as the all the other dogs had done. I can hear some friends suggesting that I have been in the cold too long….?

Marine biologist and Whale Whisperer, Larry Hobbs, presented “Where blubber is not a bad thing – the Whales and Seals of the Southern Ocean.” Larry’s incredible knowledge and experience shone through, as he took us all on a journey of the evolution of whales, their respective sizes and distinguishing features, feeding patterns, etc. Believing our planet should be called Water, rather than Earth, the great mysteries for Larry have always rested in the oceans. An appropriate thought with land not visible in any direction, and two miles of water beneath us. Wonderful footage of baleen whales feeding on Krill, with their 12 foot throats expanding to 36 feet, to ingest a ton of Krill in one mouthful. A video of Orcas cooperatively creating a massive wave to wash a seal off an ice floe.

Geologist Wayne Ranney presented “The landscape history of Antarctica” as the last lecture of the day. Wayne has a very confident, engaging lecture technique, and with 33 years experience in Antarctica, fascinating insights to share. Wonderful images of the Scott-Amundsen base at the South Pole, which at 9300 feet ASL, is 9000 feet of ice, resting on 300 feet of bedrock. Anyone coming to Antarctica for the scenery, is really coming to this place for the geology asserts this geologist. Were all the ice held in Antarctica and Greenland to melt, world sea levels would rise 320 feet (100 meters). Most importantly, Wayne explained the composition of the Earth, Tectonic Plate shift, and the evolution of Antarctica in a manner we all understood. Imagine a peach, the core as the pip, the mantle as the fruit, and the crust as the skin – the proportions relatively correct making our planet considerably easier to imagine. Well attended, comprehensible and very well presented.
At the start of this lecture, a guest walked up to Pete Clement and I, wanting an itinerary of the trip to Antarctica. I mentioned that we would attempt to land the guests twice a day in groups of 100, or a Zodiac cruise. He was very put out that we are not going further south, clearly wanting to get to the Antarctic mainland. He then wanted to know how long the Peninsula was – I replied a thousand kilometers, which shocked him. We mentioned gently, that should he wish to visit the mainland, or South Pole, the only option was to fly. He turned and left us with his eyebrows clearly knitting.

Our delightful Captain Erwan le Rouzic hosted his cocktail party, introduced his senior officers and then welcomed guests to dinner in Le Celeste restaurant downstairs on Deck 2. Nice to see almost everyone dressed for the occasion, the photographer and videographer recording the scenes for sale during the cruise. Expedition Director, Suzana, introduced the iceberg competition – first iceberg spotted larger than our vessel wins an expensive bottle of French Champagne from the Captain. No radar or bribing of Bridge officers allowed!
Helen Ahern from New Zealand was telling us over dinner about Heritage trips out of New Zealand into the Ross Sea, via sub-Antarctic islands. Their trips last 30 days, generally affected by winds and ice in parts. With 50 guests, 32 Russian crew and 8 Expedition staff, they run a “tight ship”. Helen has worked for Heritage for many years, as have Adam and Megham Walleyn.
Bright sunshine outside, a wonderful evening all round.