Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Silver Explorer, Day 17 - Smooth sailing

With thanks to Silversea for this hosted cruise
At the daily Recap/Briefing a couple of days ago, someone asked Expedition Leader Tim what the forecast was for Drake Passage. “Doesn’t matter,” came the breezy reply. “We’re doing it anyway.”

There’s no denying though that it’s been weighing increasingly heavily on everyone’s minds, this two-day sail from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula back to Tierra del Fuego: we’ve seen the maps, noted the arrows and colours, consulted the key telling us ‘swells of 8-10 metres’. I’ve just read someone’s blog myself, from only a few weeks ago, where someone was tossed down the stairs and broke a leg, having to be medevac-ed away, while everyone else was confined to their rooms (and beds).

But it’s looking as though we are going to be lucky – as, honestly, we have been all through this cruise. We’ve seen all the wildlife, we’ve experienced all the weather, and now it seems as though our earlier rough crossing to South Georgia will be the worst we’ll be able to bore people with back home, because the dreaded Drake Passage today looks like Drake Lake.
Flat, calm, glossy blue, under an equally blue sky dotted with white clouds – we could be in the Mediterranean. Or at least New Zealand. It’s a gift. It’s tempting to peel off the Scopoderm patch (source of suspicious wonder to Aussies and Americans, who can’t even get it on prescription, let alone buy it over the counter). But that would be tempting fate, surely; so on it stays.

I’m blaming the drugs for my falling asleep in Danny’s quite amusing lecture about spending a winter south of the Antarctic Circle. Every day there have been three or four Powerpoint talks by the expedition staff about things we’ve seen or would like to, and they’ve mostly been good: Cory’s this morning about orcas was especially professional and interesting, if rather sad and depressing (she was restrained in her references to SeaWorld, but no-one was in any doubt about her opinion). We’ve all learned a lot.
I also learned a bit more about the ship today, discovering, on this second-to-last day, a deck I hadn’t been on before, and routes I didn’t know. It was such a gloriously sunny day (although still very cold) that it seemed a waste to be inside, so I was out prowling. Not much wildlife, though, apart from some petrels and albatrosses – and apparently some hour-glass dolphins behind the ship at lunch, though I couldn’t actually spot them. This is why Luke is never seen without his trusty binoculars round his neck – even when he’s dressed up in a suit and tie like at tonight’s Captain’s Farewell in the theatre.

After a typically droll and amusing speech, Captain Piers introduced the staff for our chance to applaud what they’ve been doing for us; and drew the raffle for the engraved decanter and similar that have been on display outside the restaurant for the last week. Tomorrow there will be an auction for a personalised map of our route that really is lovely and would make a fabulous souvenir – I’m sure the money raised (for the crew welfare fund) is going to be substantial.

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