From the National Geographic Explorer at Sea
Dec 17, 2010 - National Geographic Explorer
Pulling away. In every sense that is what we had to do today as we spent the 17th day of December steaming further and further north. Further and further from a land that has given us six of its best days and a lifetime of memories. With the last white hillocks of the peninsula to our stern by the day’s official start at 12am we have been surrounded ever since by gentle seas. Even now, on our return, when everyone thought our weather luck would surely run out we are escorted homeward by a soothing swell and abundant seabirds. Dozens of Light Mantled Sooty and Black Browed albatross streamed in behind our ship throughout the day, joining the steady march north only to break off for minutes to hours before being replaced by another group/ individual a few minutes of latitude lower. The Light mantled sooty, even away from land where they breed, could be seen playing out their telltale flight pattern along the way. This involves two individuals flying in perfect unison, only for a few moments in most cases, but with a symmetry and grace that can be compared to figure skating or synchronized swimming. As the case may be they are looking for well suited lovers. That is what they are trying to establish in these flying displays- “can you handle these moves because if not you have no chance with me!”
Cape Petrels also accompanied our journey home and offered countless opportunities to explore the creative possibilities of our cameras. With their predictable and frequent flight paths along the ships aft quarter all one had to do was stand in a given spot and on the aft deck and let them skim by at eye level. By playing with shutter speed anyone can, in one instant, freeze and preserve these animals for their detail or, in the next, highlight the fact that they are in near perpetual motion, accentuating this by adding some creative blur.
With the day drifting to a close we entered even calmer seas and a near full moon. If our luck can hold out for just one more day this will be without question the finest stretch of weather this season. Just one more challenge awaits us tomorrow…the infamous Cape Horn.