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>Seas: none
>Winds 3 knots
>Temp 2.9 C ; w/ wind chill 2.9 C
>Location: Latitude 61 degrees 42.29’ S; Longitude 61 degrees 12.48 W

Above: Palmer Station
Below: A team photo taken at Palmer Station before the voyage back.
Click on each image for larger view.

18 December 2004

We left the ice earlier in the day and have just lost site of Antarctica as we steam North towards South America. Once again we will cross the Drake Passage and hopefully avoid the seas that have made this body of water so famous. The seas are thankfully calm, but one can clearly detect a steadily increasing swell. Everywhere you look people are already applying the “three points of contact” rule.

Our cruise track must have coincided with a whale freeway. Every couple of hours there would be a “whale call” from the bridge. Most of the sightings were of Minke whales, but interspersed among there were several groups of Humpbacks. It is difficult to conceive of what it was like in these waters before whalers discovered this area some 200 years ago. Earlier in the day, Adelie penguins were swimming next to the ship and, owing to the clarity of the water, we could see them “flying” under the sea surface. We will miss these animals as they are charismatic members of this unusual fauna that we have enjoyed for the last 4 weeks. (I personally think of the giant ribbon worm Parborlasia should be “poster child” for Antarctic wildlife.)

Our work is not done as we’re collecting at least one plankton sample approximately every 40 miles. I am delighted to report that there will be four stations in the middle of the Drake Passage where collections of plankton will be made while the vessel is both under way and drifting. This will provide an interesting test of the influence of method of collection on the apparent number and diversity of larvae in the surface waters.

Our boat has become a bird magnet as giant petrals, storm petrals, and albatrosses are once again following us back to Chile.

Happy Holidays to all,


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