The travel days are behind us. Last night we slept to the gentle rolling of the seas. The calm waters rocked us into a slumber that was easily within reach. Our Expedition Leader, Stefano Pozzi, allowed us a little later breakfast to take advantage of time to rest.
Our day was a pleasant mixture of finding our way around the ship, soaking in the hot tub, organizing our things, and preparing our outer gear for landing in Antarctica. We were introduced to the wide variety of characters that comprise the Expedition Team. Then we gathered our outer garments and had every speck of lint, seed or dust removed by vacuum to protect Antarctica from plants or diseases we might inadvertently carry on us.
Ben Shulman gave a lively talk about sea birds. While he spoke, we compared the images from his presentation to the actual birds flying past the windows. Once we knew a black-browed albatross from a kelp gull, we headed out the back door to try to capture a photo of these fast-moving birds.
Southern giant petrels traversed the skies with the ease of a kite on a string. They seem to just hang in midair, yet they are experts of subtlety. A slight shift in the angle of their primary feathers and they turn in the circular pattern of flight that is their standard movement through the wind.
Albatrosses dwarf giant petrels. At a distance, the black-browed albatross looks like a standard black-backed gull. As this animal flies closer to the ship, the 8-foot wingspan begins to be recognized for the length that it is.
Larger still are the wandering and royal albatrosses. Their huge size makes hunting for the distinguishing characteristics a game of its own. Binoculars scan the bird in search of tiny black coloring on its tail or a thin dark line on its beak. This particular bird had no black and did have a thin dark line on its beak. It is a southern royal albatross coming to greet us on our way to the ice.
Captain Oliver greeted us with a lovely speech and cocktail party that officially began our holiday in Antarctica on the Summer Solstice in the Southern Ocean.