December 27, 2016
The voyage back across the Drake Passage was significantly rougher than our previous trip, but it was still on the milder side according to those in the know on the ship. Apparently, waves of 30 meters in height are possible during crossings, so we go extremely lucky. It was still a slower day on the ship, as many were hunkered down, apparently dealing with the rocking seas in the comfort of their cabins.
I spent the day on the bridge looking for birds I had missed during our last crossing. I scoured groups of Cape Petrels trailing the ship for the rarer Antarctic Petrel, a specialty of the region. I finally found this bird soaring in large arcs around the ship, distinguishable from the Cape Petrels by more white on the tail and wings. I also got a brief but good look at the Gray-headed Albatross, a bird that relishes the open ocean of the Drake Passage.
I spent a great deal of time later that morning on the stern of the ship attempting to distinguish between the different species of prion that were darting in and out of the ship’s wake. It was much too hard to define these species through the binoculars, so I resorted to taking photos of as many as possible and carefully analyze field marks on these photos afterwards. By blowing up the photos on the computer later in the day, I was able to confirm that I had seen two species of prion – the Antarctic Prion and the Slender-billed Prion.
I have used the remainder of the day to catch up on rest. The past seven days have been packed to the brim, and I am absolutely spent. The rocking of the ship is almost like a cradle, and sleep is coming very easily.
Grosvenor Teacher Fellow
National Geographic Society