Antartica, Way Way Down Under

November 10, 2007- First Sailing of the Season Previous


From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica About This Itinerary
From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica
Blue Petrel
From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica
Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross (Left) & Black-Browed Albatross (Right)

Drake Passage

The first day on board any voyage of the National Geographic Endeavour is always going to be an exciting place. When that voyage is the first of the season to Antarctica, the levels of anticipation reach a new level. No voyage to the White Continent can ever be considered a routine undertaking. And while we have the advantages of weather forecasts and ice charts from the latest in satellite technology, there is still a sense of stepping into the unknown.

The Drake Passage is the first formidable obstacle we have to cross in order to reach our goal. This six hundred mile stretch of the Southern Ocean is exposed to some of the most extreme weather on the planet and can be a harsh initiation to this realm. But today we encountered this area at its most benign, with light winds and relatively calm seas.

The conditions allowed us to make the most of our time at sea with a series of presentations about the region, while time spent on deck introduced us to the seabirds of the Southern Ocean. In addition to a variety of smaller petrels including some excellent looks at blue petrels, we were also fortunate to encounter four species of albatross during the day including the wandering albatross which, at eleven feet, has the largest wingspan of any bird. And while it would be impossible to consider any albatross to be anything other than a superlative flyer, there is something about the light-mantled sooty albatross that sets it above all others.

A fine day in the Southern Ocean ended as we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, the sea temperature fell from 6°C to 2°C, and we entered the oceanographic realm of Antarctica. Tomorrow we will enter the geopolitical realm of Antarctica, and hope to make our first landfall in Antarctica.

Richard White, Naturalist; Photos: Left – John Carlson, Oceanites; Right – Mike Nolan, Naturalist


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