Antarctica Tour: Water, Water, Everywhere

By Jim Danzenbaker and Ann Nightingale

5 January 2012

Jim’s view: The first of three days of crossing from the Falklands to South Georgia found me on the bridge at 6 a.m. and studying Southern Royal Albatrosses, Sooty and Great Shearwaters, Southern Giant Petrels and Wilson’s Storm-petrels. It was a study of different sizes, and we could easily see how larger birds use dynamic soaring to cover what seemed like endless distances. I searched for marine mammals, but came up short. Our team did, however, manage to find a few Minke whales. I presented my second seabird identification lecture, “To the Antarctic Convergence and Beyond.” Overnight the seas had become rougher and the stomachs of some on the boat were starting to churn, thus I was amazed at the number of people who showed up for my talk. There was plenty of room at the dinner table this evening as it was a wee bit rocky at times. That’s life on the open ocean.  


Uh oh! Seasickness bags tucked in the handrails outside our cabins can't be a good sign. (Photo by Ann Nightingale)

Ann’s view: I had a sense of foreboding when I opened the cabin door and saw that the hallway railings were festooned with seasickness bags. We would be at sea for the next three days, and while the weather has been great, the ocean had taken on a sloppier tone. There was a definite swell, and for some of us, it would only be a matter of time before we’d have good use for those bags. 

The day was filled with lectures on everything from geology to photography and natural history. I found myself in the familiar position of wanting to be two places at once. The bridge was the place to be to stay warm and dry to search for birds and marine mammals. One of the passengers spotted the blow of a sperm whale, but I missed it. Jim was patiently explaining the differences between the albatrosses. 

Wandering, Southern Royal, and Black-browed were taking advantage of the “cliff” that our ship placed in the ocean, creating updrafts where normally there would be none. I got a good look at a first phase young albatross with its all dark body and white face. At that age, it’s tricky to differentiate between the species.  


The deck of the "Ortelius" provides a great vantage point for viewing seabirds and marine mammals (Photo by Ann Nightingale)

This expedition is a physical adventure. The hikes in the Falklands, though not exceptionally long, sometimes required sure footing and at least a bit of stamina. Aboard the ship, it’s not much different. The pitching and rolling of the ship make every step a possible mis-step and the location of the various points of interest provide at least a little exercise. My cabin is on deck three and the bridge is above deck six. To get to the bow, you have to go up to deck six and then down a level. The dining room is thankfully only one level up on deck four. 

As the day went on, the supply of sickness bags began to dwindle, and not all of the passengers made it to dinner. Regrettably, I was one left suffering in the cabins while the heartier of us socialized over supper. The scene from the movie “The Big Year” where Kenny Bostick is inducing Stu Pressler to sickness by repeating “pitching and rolling, pitching and rolling” was continuously replaying in my mind. The ship’s doctor gave me something a little stronger than the motion-sickness pills I had been taking, and I managed to get a good night’s sleep. 


Oh dear Ann. I think you will gain your sea legs soon! Nice to get a true view! Be well my friend!

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