Hello from the Drake Passage! As I write, I am sitting in the ship’s library surrounded by windows looking out over the open water. Seabirds are swooping in and out of my line of vision, and the water is relatively calm, although we can definitely feel the swells and the occasional white-capped wave. Unfortunately, I keep finding that if I sit down, I immediately start to fall asleep thanks to the gentle rocking of the ship. In order to avoid snoozing my way to Antarctica, I’ve spent most of the day running up and down between decks exploring all the nooks and crannies of the ship, and I haven’t really stopped moving until now. As my students know from our virtual tour, it’s a big ship, and there’s so much to see!
I didn’t go to sleep until about 11:30 last night because I was sitting on the ship’s bow (front) fascinated by the glow of the sun just beginning to set around 11pm (see photo below). We entered the Drake Passage just before midnight (as I was trying to fall asleep!), and the seas were fairly rough for a few hours during the night – lots of creaking in our cabin and opening and slamming of cabinet and closet doors as the ship pitched with the swells. We woke up to calmer seas, though, and – at least among the three teachers aboard the ship – no seasickness! It was 47º F this morning, which, for us hearty New Englanders, is a cool fall morning. It’s definitely getting chillier as we move farther south, and I’ve put on my hat and gloves now. I’m hoping to spend some more time outside tonight to take some photos of the progressively later sunset.
I spent much of today exploring the ship and finding open decks on which to practice my wildlife photography on the albatrosses flying overhead. With 12 foot wingspans (7th graders – remember our demonstration – 2.5 X your armspan for most of you?!), albatrosses make great subjects for novice photographers like myself – they’re pretty hard to miss! I took some video of different parts of the ship for my students, and I’ll post that when I’m able – or share it when I get back if the internet signal isn’t strong enough to post it here. It’s an amazing – and also somewhat eerie – feeling to be on a deck with no land in sight and no other people.
Check out some of my wildlife sightings from today and my first attempt at photographing the unique wildlife of the Antarctic region. Below, there’s a picture of a Black-Browed Albatross (white bird with black wings), and I’ll be putting up more pictures as our internet access allows. I went to workshops on identifying seabirds and Antarctic wildlife photography with the National Geographic naturalists and photographers today, so it’s been a day full of learning at sea for me.
12am Update: I just sat in the Bridge (room with the radar equipment) with the Second Officer and one of the other GTF teachers as we crossed the latitude of 60ºS. This latitude is significant, as it indicates our official entrance into the Antarctic Convergence – a biodiversity boundary that is marked by a clear separation of different species living on each side. Amazingly, just as we crossed over to 60ºS, we observed three Fin Whales blow their characteristic vertical pillars of water just beyond our ship. We are expected to arrive off the Aitcho Islands late tomorrow morning (Wednesday) and aim to land on Barrientos Island, an island on the Aitcho archipelago that is home to Chinstrap and Gentoo penguin colonies, along with Wedell seals and elephant seal babies!