We weren’t alone on these rough seas, however; birds often accompany ships through the passage and we’d been joined by some hardy albatross who were also braving the harsh winds. Our enthusiastic naturalist Dick spotted five different species, including the royal albatross, one of the largest flying birds in the world. It was good to get out in the open air and attempt to photograph these magnificent birds in flight, with Andy calling out advice as we braced ourselves on the rolling deck.
The strong winds and high waves may have slowed our progress, but in their own way they also enhanced the experience, especially when standing on deck seeing the ship rise and fall against the power of the ocean, with the occasional wave reaching up and crashing onto the deck. After the initial bad weather the forecast fortunately turned promising, and we have begun to make up the lost time as we continue south.
Safe indoors, the crew have been taking us through mandatory briefings which outline what we can expect once we're onshore and when we're riding in zodiacs, the inflatable boats which we’ll be using to navigate Antarctica’s coastal waters. We were also taught about the compulsory regulations implemented by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) which have been put in place to ensure Antarctica remains a pristine wilderness. Andy and AJ have also started their photographic lecture series with some invaluable advice to remember once we get to shore.
As the sun dipped low behind a bank of dramatic grey clouds, a luminous sunset lit up the cresting white horses on the waves around us, creating a beautiful backdrop for the seabirds following in the wake of the ship. The further on we get into our journey, the more it feels like we’re entering into another world. Sailing across the open ocean without another ship or speck of land in sight, one can really get a sense of the awesome power of the elements here. Despite the rough seas encountered during the first part of our crossing, we’re all incredibly grateful to be here at the bottom of the globe in search of the true meaning of wild.