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Vacation Day 13
Wednesday, February 4th
At Sea

Today the ship is sailing from Antarctica (Elephant Island on the map) to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Here is the map.

HA Map

There were no pictures taken this day. I guess I figured that I had taken enough over the last three days in Antarctica that I wanted a rest. Can you blame me?

At 1:28 AM this morning we left Antarctica by crossing latitude 60 degrees 0 minutes South at longitude 54 degrees, 54 minutes West. This means that we left the Southern Sea and entered the South Atlantic Ocean. So, we were sailing in the South Atlantic Ocean for all but an hour and twenty-eight minutes of this day.

I spent most of this day creating the web page for Day 7 of the trip which was the shore excursion to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

Since there is not much to say about today, I thought I might offer some parting thoughts about Antarctica.

Thoughts on the Antarctic Experience

What a magnificent place this is!

Virtually undisturbed by man, it is nature in all its glory (all be it cold glory). It is the only place in the world that is not controlled by a single country or government. As the Ice Pilot said, to make any kind of change here, under the Antarctic Treaty it requires the agreement of 180 different governments. Just think about how difficult it is just to get two governments to agree on anything, not to mention 180. I think this shows here when you see it.

There is not a huge amount of wildlife here. Mainly penguins, birds, whales, seals, sea lions and probably the most important (and smallest) of all, krill. If it was not for the krill the penguins and many of the whales would not be here. Many of the birds (skuas and a few others) and whales (mainly killer or ORCAs) would not be here if the penguins were not here for them to eat. If they were not here, neither would most of the rest of the wildlife. There are not many places in the world where you could cover such a relatively small area and see as much active wildlife as those of us on the ship did. I would bet that parts of Africa, some of the rain forest areas, the oceans, and possibly Australia might come close to this. Most of those places are not as untouched by humans as Antarctica.

Global warming is having its effect here. Several of the large ice shelves have broken up recently probably as a result of global warming. There is also evidence that some of the animal species that thrive in cold weather (or climates) are gradually moving further south. There is at least one of the eleven species of penguins that scientists have noticed that their nesting sites are shifting further south where it is colder from where they have been for many years. It is thought this is a result of the slowly warming climate.

There is also the issue of whether or not tourists such as me and the 1199 other passengers on this ship should be allowed here. There have been a number of problems with the smaller expedition ships that offer small group tours into this area. Many of these people get to go ashore as you saw in some of the pictures. The Ice Pilot and the other scientists that were on this ship feel that it is important to get people (even in limited numbers) to see and hopefully become advocates for the protection of Antarctica. If people cannot experience this, they have no way of knowing what a magnificent place it is and how worthy it is to protect it. The ship I was on did three cruises this season to Antarctica, each sold out with 1200 passengers. There was one other ship, with just under 800 passengers, going in after us that was on a special cruise. This completed Holland America's antarctic season for this year.

There are other cruise lines doing some of this as well.

I think it is worth it as long as appropriate care is taken. There is a tourist group that oversees all access by tourists to Antarctica. This group meets regularly and licensees all the ships entering this area. The Antarctic Treaty forces strict rules on anyone entering Antarctica which is defined as anywhere south of latitude 60 degrees south. There are no exceptions. There will always be some issues/problems due to the nature of technology, but it seems that almost everybody is taking the necessary care since there have been virtually no serious problems, injuries or deaths.

Tomorrow, Stanley in the Falkland Islands.

Created: February 23, 2009 at home.
Last updated: February 26, 2009 10:31 AM