Day 5 (5th Jan): Drake Passage in Antarctica and Argentina Travel log
- Jan. 20, 2023, 12:01 a.m.
The ship was still shaky when the day started, but much less so. So I only took one Bonine. The ship runs noticeably slower too… presumably because we have reached the Antarctic Peninsula and thus imposing the voluntary 10 miles per hour limit. By the afternoon, it felt like cruising on the main canal - we have a large ship, but it was inching so slowly on still water.
This was a bottom-heavy lecture day; we went to the Kayaking briefing lecture first, then I took the time to do some laundry. When lunch ended, the captain announced that we had our first whale sighting: a pod of fin whales were in front of us. So the ship stopped and everyone looked at the whales. I personally don’t get why it was a big deal; I live in New York and used to live in San Francisco; there are whale watching ships you can go on all summers to see whales.
The weather was great though. 4 degrees celsius and no clouds. You can see all the way to the horizon.
The afternoon was full of lectures, but somehow less informative than the day before - they were all about practical information: what to expect if we get picked to kayak (it’s a lottery system), if we snowshoe, and how to use the camera, how to report wildlife sightings and so on. In mid-afternoon we had our first land sighting - we passed by Smith island. It was then that I was struck by how big everything is - it’s a small island on the map, but the looks of it reminded me a little bit of Napali coast, but, much bigger, much further from the ship, and much whiter. You can see cloud forming halfway up the top. Photos don’t do it justice:
During the bird photography workshop (really designed for real camera users) I looked for birds (I think albatrosses) using the binoculars, which worked well. We then had a humpback whale sighting just before the daily briefing; it was my first time seeing humpbacks. There were several pods around the ship (I suppose we were in an area with a lot of krills), but a pod of 4 or 5 were especially close to us, so that was exciting. I was underdressed for the weather (was only expecting to be in a lecture hall), but I endured it for 15 mins. We got some good videos. As we ate dinner there were a couple of humpback whales still around the ship, and penguins were feeding all around us, hopping in and out of the water.
You can hear the whales calling to each other, sounding almost like elephants:
So that was a lot of wildlife sightings on our first day; I hope the good fortune will continue tomorrow.
N.B.: In the video, a naturalist was commenting in the background; there’s a thing that identifies individual whales using image of their tails, so he was talking about getting a good fluke shot. I knew about this a few months ago because a mathematician youtuber I follow explained the science behind the whale-identifier, while travelling on the same ship:.
Last updated January 20, 2023