+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

Dawn broke on a calm, gently rolling ocean, and beautiful weather. It has been a wonderfully calm Drake thus far. Today we exchanged waterproof pants and boots for those wishing for a better fit. It is a great opportunity to interact with guests and get to know them a little better.

Astronaut Susan Kilrain gave her first lecture today, and what a triumph it was. Susan spoke about the obstacles in her path, before qualifying as a private pilot. Moving on to becoming a test pilot working for Lockheed, before an invitation to join NASA. A magnificent presentation filled with humour, anecdote and wonderful images. Raising 4 kids akin to flying 4 different aircraft with different operating procedures! Guests turned out in force for this presentation, along with many staff/crew.
Susan gave an hilarious list of differences and similarities between a voyage to Antarctica and a space mission. Orbiting the Earth at 17 500 miles/hour (25 000km/hr) results in a sunset and sunrise every 45 minutes – an orbit taking 90 minutes. One had to be quick with a camera, however, as the sunset or sunrise lasted 9 seconds.

Cruise Director, Susanna then explained the Zodiac procedures in detail, and life jackets were handed out to all guests. Expedition Leader, Marco went through the IAATO protocols and requirements for visiting Antarctica. IAATO is the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, who enforce strict guidelines in terms of behaviour in this pristine region. Marco also explained that we have made such good time over the 850 nm to the South Orkneys, that we shall have time to make our first landing in the morning – a great bonus. Excitement levels amongst the guests immediately went up a few notches. Added to the growing excitement of the Solar Eclipse, where viewing conditions will be best from the South Orkneys (weather permitting, of course). There are many Eclipse chasers onboard, who become family as they travel around the globe, chasing eclipses. The Zodiac drivers went for a short refresher course regarding the Zodiac operations onboard, and to meet the Bridge Officers integrally involved with these operations. There are a large number of Albatrosses and Prions circling the ship constantly, providing much pleasure for those interested in birds. The ocean is filled with white caps by early afternoon, and the swell has increased but Le Lyrial is supremely comfortable and riding high.

Speaking about birds, ornithologist Patri gave a wonderful presentation on Penguins after staff had made a biosecurity check on clothing guests will be using for the landings. This is necessary to prevent the introduction of any alien species to Antarctica. Seeds/spores often find themselves in the zips and velcro of clothing and backpacks. Patri has studied Penguins all her adult life, and her knowledge of these enigmatic birds is prodigious. To the average layman, a Penguin is a Penguin, but Patri clearly changes that opinion immediately. Just the idea of incubating eggs and raising chicks in this environment is remarkable. The beautiful Emperor Penguin breeds in the depths of the Antarctic winter, and south of 75 degrees! Little wonder the journey made to Cape Crozier by Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard in the winter of 1911 to collect Emperor Penguin eggs beggars belief. The Worst Journey in the World written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard is perhaps one of the best reads on early Antarctic exploration, including this winter journey.

Astronomer, Dr Massimo Tarenghi gave a presentation on the reasons for solar and lunar eclipses, along with how to view them, and importantly how to photograph them. It is lunacy to attempt to view an eclipse without the aid of eclipse dark glasses. The eclipse in the South Orkneys on 4 December will have its mid-point at 4.08am, and last for a minute. Obviously we are all hoping for clear conditions, and a good view of this extraordinary, irregular event. Both Susan and Massimo are a great hit with A&K’s guests, adding huge value to an expedition such as this one.

At Recaps Rob spoke about the journeys early explorers made before their famous moments, the journey Susan was on prior to NASA appointment, and the “story” photographer Michelle spoke about in her opening lecture hoping that these guests find this a seminal journey in their lives to weave into the story/tapestry of their own lives. Another fantastic day at sea. The morrow beckons seductively..

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