Today was spent at sea, sailing towards our next destination, the South Orkney Islands. At some point tonight, we will cross 60 degrees south latitude, which is the formal beginning of the Antarctic. The islands we've visited so far - the Falklands and South Georgia - are considered 'peri-antarctic.'
The seas became noticeably rougher when we left the shelter of South Georgia - the roughest we've seen on the whole trip so far. Even the staff commented on it.
We did a slight detour during the day from the straight line to the Orkneys so we could sail along the side of a hugh iceberg, known as A22A. This iceberg is something like 20 miles long and 30 miles wide. It split off of an ice shelf on Antarctica in 1986. It became stuck in some shallow water shortly thereafter, but then got loose a couple of years ago and is now floating along in the South Atlantic, melting. The size of it was pretty hard to believe - it looked like a cliff face of ice and snow, probably 100 feet tall from the surface of the ocean. It took us several hours to sail around it, and the iceberg acted almost like an island in calming the waters, making the seas much easier on all of us.
The afternoon was filled with lectures and seminars. A non-profit group called Oceanites, Inc. (www.oceanites.org) gave a talk - two scientists working with Oceanites on a site-inventory project have been along with us on the trip. The scientists explained their research project, which largely involves counting the number and types of animals present on various sites in the Antarctic, as well as trying to gague the impact of tourism and other human-related factors on populations. We also heard from Chris Ranier, a photographer from National Geographic, and a friend of his, Robert Mellman, another professional photographer along on the trip. They have been extremely accessible to the passengers, giving advice and help with various photo-related issues.
Tonight, Emmy & I were invited to eat at the head table in the dining room (otherwise, dining is in one sitting and tables are not assigned). We ate with Lisa Trotter (the assistant expedition leader, Dennis Cornejo (an onboard scientist and the dive master), and Pete Puleston (a naturalist and our favorite Zodiac driver). Dennis taught Lisa to dive in the Antarctic - she may be the first person ever to take her very first dive in Antarctica.