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Dra­ke Pas­sa­ge

10th-11th Janu­a­ry 2015 – God has put the Dra­ke Pas­sa­ge bet­ween Ant­arc­ti­ca and the rest of the world, and this sea­way has got its bad repu­ta­ti­on for good rea­son. But it is not at all living up to its repu­ta­ti­on now, you hard­ly feel that you are on a ship, to our gre­at satis­fac­tion. You could play bil­lard, some­thing which is not usual­ly asso­cia­ted with ships at sea. No rea­son to com­p­lain, in other words. Tho­se who wan­ted to could even get sunburnt on deck yes­ter­day, while the­re were rela­tively few birds around the ship. They are more nume­rous today: Wan­de­ring alba­tros­ses of dif­fe­rent age sta­ges, as the plu­mage makes clear: the brow­nish ones are juve­ni­les, while the most­ly white ones are ful­ly adult. In addi­ti­on to that, the­re is a nice cross sec­tion of typi­cal spe­ci­es for the area around the ship, inclu­ding the small Wilson’s storm petrel with its very lively flight, the beau­ti­ful­ly pat­ter­ned Cape petrel, the occa­sio­nal White-chin­ned petrel and the majes­tic Wan­de­ring alba­tross at most times. Many of us are out on deck, enjoy­ing the Sou­thern Oce­an and its inha­bi­tants, try­ing to cap­tu­re them on memo­ry card. Call yourself hap­py if you have got a fast came­ra J

It is noti­ce­ab­ly col­der now, during the second day of our cros­sing, the cold is making its­elf felt through thin clothes, and the visi­bi­li­ty is occa­sio­nal­ly decre­a­sed by snow sho­wers. Ant­arc­ti­ca is clear­ly get­ting clo­ser. Mean­while, we can see the first wha­les, a group of 7-8 Fin wha­les, swim­ming abo­ve a 3,000 m water column.

You wouldn’t expect to be for­ced to do some vacu­um clea­ning on an ant­arc­tic expe­di­ti­on. But you are. Taking unwan­ted orga­nic mat­ter to Ant­arc­ti­ca, such as plant seeds which might intro­du­ce new spe­ci­es to this remo­te envi­ron­ment or bac­te­ria or viru­ses that could bring dise­a­ses to the wild­life the­re, has to be pre­ven­ted by all means. What means some minu­tes of clea­ning work weig­hed against the risk of brin­ging „ali­ens to Ant­arc­ti­ca“.

Unne­cessa­ry to men­ti­on that the­se sea days are bro­ken up by regu­lar lec­tures, intro­du­cing the „birds of the wind“ or the wha­les of the Sou­thern Oce­an and of cour­se man­da­to­ry events inclu­ding envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly beha­viour in Ant­arc­ti­ca.

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Snow sho­wers are get­ting more fre­quent in the after­noon, while we are doing the vacu­um­ing ses­si­on. Cape petrels are around the ship in num­bers, and a beau­ti­ful and ele­gant Light-mant­led soo­ty alba­tross is making wide cir­cles around us, com­ing near every cou­p­le of minu­tes, while the exci­te­ment on board is rising with every mile that we are get­ting clo­ser to the South Shet­land Islands.

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last modification: 2015-01-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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