Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Antarctic Expedition Begins

Ahoy Matees,
We arrived at Macquarie Wharf early to drop off our bags and to get our first look at our home for the next 3 weeks, the Orion.

The Orion was built in Germany in 2003 and can accommodate 106 guests.  Fortunately, she has an ice class hull and is stabilized for comfort.  Docked just in front of the Orion was a large Japanese vessel.  Although, the ship claims to be a Tokyo University of  Marine Science and Technology vessel, we all know that she is part of the Japanese Whaling fleet. The fleet plans to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through March.

I was hoping to get to see one of the Sea Shepard's ships but they left Hobart about a week ago.  The Sea Shepard's are a radical environmental group that harass the Japanese whaling fleet in an attempt to get them to stop whaling.  They have been successful in interrupting the Japanese hunt for whales.

Finally, it was time to board the Orion and we were greeted by our young French captain Vincent Talliard.

We left Hobart and Storm Bay under sunny skies and calm seas.

We settled into our cozy cabin on Deck 3 and familiarized ourselves with the ship.

The Orion is a floating hotel complete with a restaurant, 2 lounges, a gift shop, library, theater and exercise room. After a mandatory lifeboat drill it was time for dinner. I made it through the first two courses and started to feel green. I abruptly left our table and headed back to our cabin. It wasn't that rough, what a whimp I am! Marc gave me one of his scoplamine patches which worked wonders. The next morning I felt fine.

For two days we've been heading south toward the Sub-Antarctic island,  Macquarie.  Here is a map which depicts our route:

The green circles show the places we hope to visit.  Along the way there was nothing but gray ocean and a few seabirds such as this White-capped Albatross to keep us company.

We're now just off Macquarie Island and are anxious to visit this unique place but high winds and waves are making it impossible to land in the Zodiacs.  It is the only Sub-Antarctic island composed of ocean crust thrust up when the Australian and Pacific plates collided.   It's also home to hundred of thousands of penguins, including the endemic Royal Penguin and seals. They have made a dramatic recovery after being nearly wiped out by sealers in the late 19th century. Native plants such as Macquarie cabbage have been depleted by introduced animal such as rabbits, rats and mice. Fortunately, most of these invasive species have been eradicated and the natural vegetation is recovering. Before we could visit the island our clothing and equipment had to be inspected and vacuumed by the expedition team to make sure we weren't bringing any foreign seeds ashore.

The weather is forecasted to improve tomorrow so we are hopeful that we will be able to land on the island and experience the amazing wildlife.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc


Fred Jaquish said...

Peggy and Marc, It looks like an amazing adventure, you are missing nothing but bitter cold back home, below zero every night for a week...relief coming mid this week. I really enjoy the blog, Peggy is a good writer. FJJ

LuckyVermonter said...

Glad you got your sea legs, Peggy!