7th November 2018 – preparation day for tomorrow’s first landing

The seas and sky that I woke to were similar to those from some other mornings; overcast, some white tops and more than a few deep troughs. Noticed an albatross sliding through the air past my balcony a short while ago.

Today is not a day to sleep the time away; our schedule is packed with mandatory and other information sessions that I will attend.  Front cover.JPG

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Feeling a need to test myself against the air and to understand the limits of my new jacket, I bypassed the stretching class at 8pm and donned my bright red Antarctic parka and walked outside up front where I watched the waves, the horizon and looked for birds.  A large bird with high contrast black and white markings on its back and wings attracted my attention and I followed its wheeling for ages – until I was too cold (now I have an idea of how many layers I might need tomorrow when I go ashore). Later when I met a naturalist and described the bird, I learned I had been watching a Cape Petrel – Google this bird and I hope you can find pictures of this extraordinarily attractive flyer, although Google is unlikely to give you a sense of scale or show you the way they move.  I have since seen a few gliding on the air currents either side of the ship including past my cabin balcony.  Without a zoom camera, my photos only show a speck in the great ocean – so no photos will be added in here.

After breakfast I picked up a news sheet – the ship develops these for different countries – so I have ‘Australia Today’ in my hands.  Australia Today front cover.JPG

And what had I forgotten – can you believe I had forgotten the Melbourne Cup was run yesterday?  Apparently, it was wild and wet over in Melbourne – I think about all those expensive shoes!!! I wonder how many blog readers lost their money on sweeps or at the betting office.  I read that the shark which has been swimming in the Whitsundays waters continues to be hungry for human flesh.  Loved reading that voters are going cold on Morrison while he is on the campaign trail in Qld – of course I no longer know who I support politically: I just know it is not the Liberal party.

Much more interesting for me now is that I attended a compulsory South Georgia Island briefing; in fact, this included a beautiful and highly instructive film developed by the BBC explaining all the dos and don’ts for travelling near and then stepping onto and around South Georgia Island.  Our expedition leader confirmed we will be going onshore tomorrow at Grytviken where we will see the remnants of a disintegrating whaling station, the church, the grave yard with Shackleton’s gravesite, and much more in terms of plant and animal wildlife.  We are all super excited.

From 11.30 am I listened to a lecture ‘South Georgia, a jewel in the Southern Ocean’.  By attending this lecture, I missed another session of Bingo and live music. Ahhh – it can’t be helped.  Of course, having attended, I am so much better informed about the history associated with South Georgia (or San Pedro as the Argentinians name it), and the huge volume of wildlife that calls the island home (31 species numbering 30 million species of birds make their nests here – those numbers are staggering).  Because of the proliferation and scale of the wildlife population, South Georgia Island is referred to as the Serengeti of the South. Only 170kms long and 40kms wide with 70% covered in snow and glaciers, this Island sits on part of the curving Scotia Ridge that extends from the bottom of South America to the Antarctic peninsula and then into Antarctica. In coming days, we expect lectures on the way the tectonic plates are moving in this part of the world.

This morning the ship crossed over the ‘line’ where the northern comparatively warmer waters meet the colder Antarctic waters, and we are now in a substantial current that runs around the Antarctic continent. This is a region of high nutrient content in the waters and attracts more sea life in and above the water.  I have seen many more birds gliding around outside today.

At lunch, in the distance at different times were two icebergs.  Later I spoke to the Captain and asked about where and why they might be around this early so far north. One explanation was that an iceberg can break off the ice shelf and then get caught in the current and can go around Antarctic a number of times even over a few years then suddenly it can get spat out at any time and can finally begin to travel northwards and melt.

I noted card players at 2pm were meeting again but I chose to watch a documentary about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. My memory is so temporary that I need information reinforcements.  The story of the patience and endurance – the will to live – of Shackleton and his men over almost two years of being stranded and overcoming herculean obstacles, has to be one of the epics of all time. It adds so many profoundly powerful layers to my simple dictum to take one step at a time and keep doing it.

I disregarded the opportunity for afternoon tea with ‘Choco’, but I realise some blog readers would have made a beeline for such an offering. I needed a break from the intensity of The Endurance and came back to the sunlit warmth of my cabin.

The afternoon ended with a briefing about tomorrow’s program when we expect to go ashore somewhere on South Georgia Island.  Super exciting!!!  For some unknown reason the cruise director has scheduled a dance class in another new dance that I have never heard of, the Merengue, at the same time as the briefing.  What is in her mind to do such a thing!!! All of us who have been joining the dancing class have been those eager to get out into the Zodiacs and whizz onto shore, so I can’t think who will be attending the dance class this afternoon.  There are several people on crutches and walking sticks – I can’t imagine them going onshore (I was later proved wrong on that assumption) nor dancing.

Again, I am absenting myself from a quiz session along with more live music and piano melodies before dinner.

The Captain created a special Australian only cocktail reception this evening at 6pm (Sydney-sider Duncan later told me he had made the suggestion to the Captain because the Australians represented almost a fifth of the number of passengers. Great idea).  Over more Champagne and canapes, we discovered there were 34 of us on board.  This is where I began to consolidate on-board friendships with people such as Sue and David, Ian and Judy from Melbourne, Andrew and his partner and some of the others.  I am the only Tasmanian.

Later in the evening after dinner, a French songs set was offered for listening, before the screening of a Tom Hanks movie.  As usual, I was fast asleep by that time.

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