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From my hotel room in Punta Arenas, where I had spent 8 days in isolation/quarantine (the first 2 in Santiago), I could see the quay where seemingly all expedition ships berthed. Turns out there is another quay closer to the airport. Karen messaged me to say that my new ship (ShipTracker) was clearly stationary in Punta Arenas – why couldn’t I see it? I now know why. My pick-up time was scheduled for 12.30pm and great was my surprise when Reception called to say my driver was there at 11.50am. It was a rushed departure, with 2 other crew members also emerging from isolation (Mexican Doctor and Croatian Navigation Officer). Chilean authorities would not allow anyone to disembark the Silver Whisper on account of Covid protocols. We 3 had PCR tests on the quay, and sat down anxiously awaiting results. Bear in mind that one member of our Team tested positive after 10 days in isolation! To our great relief all 3 tests were negative, and we were allowed onboard.

The afternoon was taken up with paperwork, safety inductions, lifeboat drills, operation of watertight doors, etc. Some of my uniform is too tight – you know the boerewors in Vienna casing scenario. Thankfully we have been able to find uniform which fits well – all brand-new, including waterproof bib trousers, binoculars, radio and GPS.

Silversea’s Silver Whisper is a classic cruise ship, beautifully appointed and decorated, with a very devoted clientele, particularly the World Cruisers. This journey is part of the World Cruise. The daily program is jam-packed. Lecture slots are difficult to find between tea, Bingo, cards, Yoga, knitting, Origami and Martini tasting! I was asked to do a lecture about Amundsen this morning, whilst the Parka and boot exchange was taking place, and we were passing through a particularly scenic area of Chilean Fjordland. Not exactly conducive to a good attendance…Thankfully the lecture went extremely well, and I am hoping the talks to follow will be well supported. The lecture Theatre onboard is beautiful, with steeply-tiered seating and a great sound/AV system. The stage throbs with vibration from the engines below, albeit comforting to know they are still working. Being onstage reminds me of a conversation which crops up regularly, of just what a lonely place it can be. It really is over to YOU to try and win the audience over, and engage them. On these ships we consider the Enrichment Lectures as Edutainment (Education and Entertainment). Karen always looks at me with an expression onstage which I am sure means “For God sake, don’t make a fool of yourself!”

We have our meals in the Officer’s Mess, where crew from 36 nationalities gather at various times. What a wonderful miscellany to be part of, and all speak such good English (language of the ship). Having travelled through the Chilean Fjords in 2020 (pre-Covid), it is simply wonderful to be back. We saw Comerson’s Dolphins and Humpback whales today, with a number of birds all offset by breathtaking scenery. In 2020 I even saw an Andean Condor extremely high above. Today the cloud cover makes such a thought out of the question, unfortunately. Cold, harsh, rugged country but absolutely magnificent.
This evening we travelled south in Tierra del Fuego, past the mighty Darwin Icecap, with its multiple glaciers running down into the fjord. The largest icecap outside of Polar regions, about 2400 square km. I spent some time on deck talking to Ornithologist Chris, about his career, binoculars, his years with Silversea, etc. A charming man who lives near Tucson in Arizona.
The Cruise Director Fernando has very kindly organised for the Expedition Team to have dinner tonight at the Hot Rocks Grill, on the Pool Deck at 8pm. The team are very excited for good meat dishes, some wine and banter away from the Mess, and grateful for the invitation. It is a formal night onboard and to see the effort guests have made to dress up this evening is wonderful.
Very early in the morning we pass Cape Horn, then set off across the infamous Drake Passage. Weather forecasts at this point indicate a reasonable crossing, which almost everyone is delighted about. I say almost as there a few who wish for a rough Drake, clearly never having experienced one before! I am sure crossing the Atlantic, Cape to Cape, we shall have our fair share of rough seas.

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