By: randosteve|Posted on: November 8, 2009|Posted in: Antartica, International | 2 comments

Cape petrals, one of the many seabirds following the ship across the Drake Passage.
Seabirds only land on terra firma to lay their eggs or mate.

fin-whale-sightingToday is our second full day on the ship crossing the Drake Passage. The seas are much mellower and I think nearly everyone is feeling better, myself included. Though we still have a few hundred miles to go before seeing land, since we have crossed the 60th parallel, we are now technically, and politically in Antarctica. We also saw our first pod of Fin whales. YAY!

Clipper Adventurer tag board. Green means on board, red means off the ship.

We had some more lecturers and briefings today, mainly focusing on the protocol for using the zodiacs as well as traveling on Antarctica. Getting on and off the zodiacs at the landing points on Antarctica seems to be one of the more challenging aspects, since we will be wearing our ski boots and really don’t want to be getting our feet wet. Some plans have been put in place to deal with this, like jumping off the bow onto the shore and/or using some sort of intermediary step or platform between the zodiac and land, but we won’t really know if these options will work until the time comes and we can try them out.

Also, since Antarctica is considered the largest protected area on earth, there are very strict guidelines put in place by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operations (IAATO) that must be followed in order to keep the land as pristine as possible. The animals on the continent, like seabirds, penguins and seals, have no fear of humans because there are no predators on the island, and it is very important that we stay at least 5 meters away, as well as be aware if they are getting irritated by our presence.

Vacuuming our gear to make sure it is free of non-native plants, seeds, food or dirt.

Not only do we need to be considerate of the animals on land and in the ocean, we also need to be very diligent regarding the environment, and make sure we don’t bring any non-native plants, seeds or food onto the island. Because of this, we all had to thoroughly go thorough all our gear and examine it to make sure it didn’t contain any foreign bodies. This included making sure nothing is stuck in the Velcro of our jackets and pants, buried in the corners of our pockets, as well as removing all the dirt caked in the soles of our ski boots. Up to now, about 5 non-native plants have been introduced to the continent and we don’t want to add to that with our presence.

Anyway, I’m definitely getting a little antsy, being cooped up on the ship for the past two days and all, but it sounds like we will be getting off the ship to ski starting tomorrow. In addition, we will be exploring two different areas on the first day, so it should be pretty exciting. Really looking forward to it.