After a long first day at sea in the Drake Passage, we awoke to calm seas and sun today. Swells had dwindled to just a few meters, and the excellent design and construction of National Geographic Endurance made for a smooth ride. The day was packed with talks on photography, seabirds, documentaries, and, of course, our critical IAATO biosecurity and safety briefing. Between the packed schedule, we had a chance to relax, have a cup of tea, enjoy food, and observe the animals all around us. On this beautiful day, the tubenose birds were out in full force: albatrosses, prions, and petrels. Throughout the day, we were followed by ten species: Wilson’s storm petrels, Antarctic prions, Antarctic petrels, cape petrels, southern fulmars, white-chinned petrels, southern and northern giant petrels, black-browed albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, and my personal favorite, the light-mantled albatross.
As the day wore on into the late afternoon, the crowd grew until at one point there were more than twenty light-mantled albatrosses around the ship, in addition to a plethora of other species. Today is the kind of day that birders and photographers dream of, and I, being both, couldn’t have been any happier. We were not just visited by birds, though. We were also lucky to spot the blows of whales as we continued to sail south. In the late afternoon, several fin whales surfaced not far off our stern, giving us views of their huge backs and dorsal fins. These sprinters of the mammal world did not stay long, nor could we. We must keep going south, drawn to our end goal, Antarctica. Tonight, the Antarctic Circle calls us, and in the morning, we will reach the ice. A few hours after hitting the ice, we will set our eyes on the White Continent.