The start of a cruise is a very special time as we muse about what awaits us. This cruise is extra-special because it is the first of Fram’s season in Antarctica. Yesterday we sailed out of the port of Buenos Aires and into the muddy “Rio” (de la Plata). The estuary of the river is so big many assumed we had sailed into a sea or even ocean, but we hadn’t. Our first day on-board was very busy with many preparatory activities such as boarding, settling into our cabins, a mandatory safety drill, Captain’s reception, and the fitting of our expedition jackets.
It took us all night to put the river behind us and early this morning we found ourselves in the Atlantic Ocean, the rising sun lighting the clouds before the golden orb broke the horizon. As we did so, we were greeted by a variety of seabirds scouring the ocean for food. It was at that time that our dreams of seeing albatrosses for the first time were fulfilled for many of us. Black-browed and a few Yellow-nosed Albatrosses impressed us with their acrobatics as did several other petrel and shearwater species. As Robert Cushman Murphy, the famous American seabird biologist said “we have joined a higher cult of man, for we have seen the albatross!”
During the day the expedition staff present several excellent and well attended lectures on a variety of topics in science and history. The seabird talk was interrupted in a good way when we past a fishing vessel that was being escorted by 100s of albatrosses and petrels. The vessel was obviously releasing fish waste, which the seabirds were gladly gobbling-up. This can be a risky business for the seabirds because of the risk of entanglement in fishing gear.
As we are traveling to the Falkland Islands, and then on to South Georgia and Antarctica, our dreams naturally also turn to penguins. Again we were not disappointed today as we saw many Magellanic Penguins, both young and older, swimming and diving in the ocean around us. They were probably from the large colony at Punta Tombo on the mainland of Argentina to our west. Both the albatrosses and penguins we saw today, though exciting, were mere hors d’ouvres to our Antarctic dreams!
There is so much to look forward to!