Monday, December 10, 2012

Drake Passage

10 Dec. 2012
Jackie Jaeger/Michelle Baker/Peg Rees

Note: Italicized questions are for schools that are following the blog.

Location: Drake Passage
Latitude: 61 degrees 20 minutes south
Longitude: 64 degrees 15.1 minutes west
Sunrise: 3:34 AM (Sunset will be in approximately 21 hours.)
Air temperature this morning: +1 degrees Celsius
Question: What is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit? 
Water temperature: +1.5 Celsius

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This morning after breakfast we all attended the required briefing on the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). This is the organization that controls and regulates all tour operators in the Antarctic waters and on land. They work in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force in 1961, and the governing body therein specified. Important changes have been made over the years and now private expedition leaders, tour operators, and governments make an environmental impact statement to this body before commencing an Antarctic project. It must be reviewed and accepted before the events can occur. These types of regulations are important requiring conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna and include a Code of Conduct that applies to any and all Antarctic visitors. Thus, we as visitors were informed about this code and instructed to abide by it. Misconduct holds a variety of penalties, such as restricted to ship if in anyway one endangers wildlife. A fine may be issued as well and even prison terms.

Part of the good conduct is to make sure that potential invasive species are not brought to Antarctica or moved from penguin rookery to penguin rookery. We spend time vacuuming all of our clothes to assure no spores or seeds were carried. We also washed and disinfected all boots before we walked on Antarctica.

In the distance, we can see Smith Island of South Georgia as our first land sighting since leaving Ushuaia. We are on course to Damoy Point. We also have spotted our first iceberg and more are starting to show themselves. They are a beautiful unworldly turquoise blue.

Wildlife spotted today and yesterday:
  • Penguins (Gentoo, Chinstraps, and Magellanic) 
  • Albatross (5 different kinds) 
  • Petrels and Antarctic Terns (4 different kinds) 
  • Whales (Humpback, Minke, Orca, Fin)
  • South American Sea Lion 

During dinner, humpback whales were sighted off the starboard side of the ship. The ship turned in a very broad circle so we could view the whales and get great pictures and then we were off. Luckily we also saw 5 penguins (3 different species) on a small iceberg. So cute….

We have been extremely lucky this trip because our journey through the Drake’s Passage has been very smooth and calm. Hopefully, we will enjoy the same good luck on the way back. Right now we have beautiful blue seas and skies; Almost tee-shirt weather. The group is very excited to get out and explore tomorrow using the Zodiacs. Zodiacs are small inflatable boats used to ferry about 12 of us at a time from the ship to the shore.

Questions to answer: 

How many miles from Las Vegas to the Antarctic Peninsula? 
(Clue: We traveled from Las Vegas>Houston TX>Buenos Aires, Argentina>Ushuaia>Antarctica Peninsula) 

When it is 7:00 am in Antarctica Peninsula what time is it in Las Vegas? 

Our ship is called the Akademik Ioffe, which is Russian. The crew is not only Russian but from many different countries. The passengers are also from many places across the globe. Our group from UNLV has 35 people making up almost half the passengers on the ship. Onboard there is a penguin researcher, photography experts, geologists, a group of biology students from Montana, and a six-year-old kindergarten student. By the way, the tooth fairy traveled all the way to Antarctica to pick up the six-year-old's lost front tooth and left a gift behind.

We hope to report back tomorrow, but the blog is moving at glacier speed with all the exciting things we are doing.


  1. My daughter will be impressed to know that the Tooth Fairy visits Antarctica too!

  2. I believe that's "invasive species," not "evasive."