The adventure has begun! We left port yesterday evening and sailed east through the Beagle Channel. As night fell, we turned south as we exited the channel and began our beeline for the great White Continent. The waves rocked us gently through the night and we awoke to a clear warm morning. The morning was quiet as a lack of wind meant the pelagic seabirds such as albatross and petrels were not around. These birds take advantage of the wind to soar for thousands of miles with barely a flap of the wing. Without the wind it simply takes too much energy to fly, so there were few to be found. We instead honed our camera skills with our photo instructor, Jim Pfitzer.
After a delicious lunch and decontaminating our gear to keep Antarctica safe from invasive species, we had entered the area around the Antarctic Convergence. At the convergence Southern Ocean waters meet the warmer waters of the northerly oceans. The water temperature rapidly dropped by several degrees Celsius and we were surrounded by a light fog and the wind picked up a bit. With the change in weather a few more birds were to be found: black-browed albatross, northern giant-petrels, Wilson’s storm petrels, black-bellied storm-petrels, and Antarctic prions could all be spotted following our wake in their search of food over the vast expanse that is the Drake Passage.
Before dinner I gave a talk about the fascinating life histories and behavioral adaptations of these pelagic birds and we enjoyed observing them and sharpening our binocular and camera skills on the sun deck. After a busy first day and a delicious dinner, we headed off to bed, eager for our first chance at land tomorrow.