Monday, December 29, 2008

When we woke up this morning, the ship was hardly moving at all, making us wonder if we'd anchored somewhere. But we hadn't - it was just very smooth sailing, allowing us to go at maximum speed towards the Antarctic peninsula. At breakfast, everyone was in good spirits, between good sleep and low swells.

There was bird-watching in the morning, but we passed that up to just relax in the bar area - reading and editing photos. At noon there was a wrap-up on what we saw in the Orkneys. Given that we had been there for a total of 2 hours, we weren't sure what sort of wrap-up there would be. We found out that the Adelies usually don't come this far north - they are deep ice birds. Why they were on the South Orkneys is very odd. Anja confirmed what we all thought - they aren't very busy at the station. The station commander told Anja last night, "don't worry about coming so late, if we're here until later, I'll just give them a 10:00 wake-up call tomorrow."

The people there do quite a bit of research for weather forecasts, both short-term and long-term. Often times, their projections differ quite a bit from the Chileans' weather forecasts. The people there are also checking on the breeding success of the Cape Petrels, which were breeding on the steep hillsides right around the base. We heard and saw the birds last night, but didn't know what they were. The new crew shows up on January 1, so perhaps that's why the people there last night were in such a good mood. Apparently, a few years ago, three scientists went out on a walk and never came back. Also, a few years ago a Weddell seal ate a German scientist. The first of these sounds plausible, the second one not so much. Then there was the story of a leopard seal biting a hole in a zodiac and a fur seal attacking one of the scientists. So in retrospect, we should be thankful we made it out okay.

Someone asked how penguins don't lose all their heat through their feet - which have no feathers. Nobody seemed to have a perfect answer on this. Since the rest of the penguins is so well insulated, perhaps it is not that big a deal. (Later we found out that they use their feet purposely to cool down).

After lunch, our bonine helped us take a long nap. We didn't miss much. When we got up, the water was still calm. There weren't any icebergs or islands around, either. So, for the vast majority of our day, our view was this:

After dinner, many people went into the bar with their respective bottles of wine, happy to celebrate a smooth sailing day. Shortly before sunset (at 10:30), we saw a couple of large icebergs, and actually saw our first sunset (with the sun itself). The water was as still as could be - there wasn't a single whitecap, and the ocean had almost no motion at all. It was like going across a lake.