Antarctica Tour: Crossing the Antarctic Convergence


Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses demonstrated synchronous flying for us. Mated pairs do this as part of their courtship. (Photo by Ann Nightingale)

6 January 2012 

Jim’s view: Dawn brought hopes of new seabirds and we weren't disappointed. An early pair of elegant Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses synchronously flew around the ship for about twenty minutes. I was very glad they did, since I had mentioned in my lecture the day before that this species finds its mate from the previous season out at sea before returning to their nesting sites. An early Gray-headed Albatross joined the few Black-browed Albatrosses gathered around the Ortelius. Soft-plumaged Petrels carved arcs over the relatively smooth water while Southern Royal and Wandering Albatrosses dynamically flew by. What beautiful birds. I'm  thrilled that we will be visiting their nest sites on South Georgia. 

At 11 a.m., we started to cross the polar front (Antarctic Convergence) and the sea water dropped from 8° C to 3° C, in a matter of hours. The air temperature also dropped from 10° C to a cool 2° C. Other than a staff meeting, lunch and answering a multitude of seabird questions, I prepped for my talk on “King Penguins—Royalty of South Georgia.” My hope was to whet the appetite of all aboard to not only see, but to study these remarkable birds. Once again, the dining room had empty chairs at each meal.  


Southern Giant Petrals like this bird have been following the ship since we left Ushuaia. We are now seeing a few Northern Giant Petrels as well (Photo by Ann Nightingale)

Ann’s view: I awoke refreshed and ready for another day at sea. Or so I thought. I decided to take the doctor up on her prescribed drug regimen that was to take throughout the reminder of the trip. I began my treatment just after breakfast. Here’s hoping! Following breakfast, there was time on deck, a drawing class and biosecurity. 

As our next stop is South Georgia, extra precautions must be taken to ensure that no foreign plants are introduced onto the island. Every piece of clothing or gear we intend to take ashore must be cleaned, vacuumed and inspected for wayward seeds and plant material. It’s surprising how many grass and weed seeds can be found in the seams of a backpack or the Velcro on a camera bag. Each of us scoured our belongings and passed them to an inspector for final approval. It’s amazing how many remaining stowaways the inspectors were able to find.  


Thousands of Antarctic Prions have entertained us since we crossed the Antarctic Convergence. They are very similar to the Slender-billed Prions we observed north of the convergence. (Photo by Ann Nightingale)

I managed to be in the right place at the right time for once, and saw a small group of Minke whales close to the ship. Unfortunately, I missed seeing a Soft-plumaged Petrel before we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, so that’s not likely to be a check for my list on this trip. At lunch, I noticed that at least a few of the passengers were looking the same as, or worse than I was feeling. One of my tablemates commented that this was his first meal in four. He said that it wasn’t unexpected. He’d been ill on his first trip to Antarctica as well. Yet, the draw of the region was enough to overcome the discomfort of getting here. Almost a third of the passengers on board have been to the Antarctic before, a very impressive statistic in my mind. 

I spent much of the rest of the day in my cabin and wisely skipped dinner. There were a couple of presentations I wouldn’t miss, though. Jim’s King Penguin lecture had the passengers all bugling and waddling around the lecture room, preparing the newbies like me for things to come. The evening ended with a sampling of the passenger photos set to music for a slide show. It was well worth a little queasiness. 

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