Seabourn Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia Dispatch December 01, 2013


In the morning Professor David Walton gave us a very interesting lecture about the “People of the Land of Fire”. Several native tribes previously inhabited what we now call Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. Discovered by Europeans in the 16th century, they were seen by the explorers as the ultimate savages. The talk described what we know of how the Yaghans lived in this extreme climate without permanent buildings, settlements or even clothes, and how the European colonisers wiped them out, leaving just museum relics and some residual inheritance in the DNA of the present Chilean and Argentine populations.

Today is Antarctica Day! Lots of schools, scientists and organisations use the occasion to improve knowledge about the continent and explain its importance. And we found a way that Seabourn Quest could contribute to these activities. Since 2010 IAATO ships have been marking the day by holding a bird count during the morning and pooling the data to help understand bird distributions. Enthusiastic volunteers gathered with expedition staff on the stern at 10:30 AM and began looking for our birds. After the standard 30 minutes we had recorded five species - not as many as on some previous days but we are in the middle of the Drake Passage. With Arty balanced perilously on the rail to help everyone we felt we were saying goodbye to the Antarctic and its birds in a very practical way. Later on, a lecture about Puerto Montt and Valparaiso (debarkation process) was given by the Destination Manager Claudio.

In the afternoon the Naturalists and Photo Coaches continued on the open decks in search of seabirds, while the Expedition Staff were available with charts in the Observation Bar.

Since Seabourn Quest is reaching Tierra del Fuego Island (Argentina), our Port Expert Geoff Devito talked about “Ushuaia, Argentina The city at the bottom of the World”. Ushuaia claims to be the southernmost city in the world. While this claim is debated by other southern settlements, one thing is clear: Ushuaia is a frontier town that breathes adventure. As this is for many the last stop before or first stop after Antarctica, the constant energy of exploration and is stronger here than perhaps anywhere on the planet. Due to its remote location Ushuaia has had its fair share of sires and scoundrels pass through to find their fortunes (or fates!). Our conversation engaged this spirit of adventure as well as looking at things to do while at the bottom of the world!

Later, our Geologist Dr. Jason Hicks gave us a lecture about “Climate Change: Modern Reality or Political Spin?” This presentation looked at climate change from the geologic perspective of “deep time”, where it can be seen to be a natural and continually occurring process. But on the short “human time scale” the massive population explosion and industrialization of the last 100 years is right now starting to cause a rapid and highly uncertain cascade of changes in the world’s climate. This has happened many times in the past millennia of human history, but advanced mechanization coupled with a high standard of living, and commensurately high human expectations are ensuring that this climate change will be far-reaching.

At night we were reaching Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego Island towards the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel. The ship wasn’t moving as much as in the Drake Passage and we enjoyed dinner, some of us were at the Colonnade and some others at The Restaurant.

Mariano Albano, Lecturer/Zodiac Driver

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