Sunday, 4 January 2009

At Sea (Day 1) 04/01/2009

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Day 8 January 4th 2009

Woke up at 4 am to take another sea sickness tablet and promptly went back to sleep until the contents of the cabin desk deposited themselves on me in the adjacent bed. Looking out of the window the sea seemed to be doing nothing more than a reasonable swell, one wonders what it will be like when it gets rough.

The porthole (technically a window since it is square) also started to leak as waves hit it - hopefully that problem has been solved by firmly tightening the bolts on the window.

When the wake up call came at 0730 (for breakfast at 0800) we were told that we were on the "Drake Lake" (as against the "Drake Shake") and that we had covered 150nm since the Pilot had been dropped off and the end of the Beagle Channel (that makes an average speed of about 15 knots) and that the Drake Passage was expected to remain calm for some while - good thing too.

Our Deck 4 Cabin (401)

ship layout

is small (3m wide by 5 m long), one lower bunk bed,

Pat on Bunk

one day bed (aka sofa),

Sofa and Daybed

desk and bookshelves,

 Cabin Desk 

wardrobe, shelves and a new fridge which, because of a problem with the lock, is permanently locked. We share a toilet and shower with the cabin next door, something which has enforced a "using the toilet locks protocol". This means that when you go into the toilet, you lock the door leading to the other cabin and unlock it when you have finished.

I chose to shower this morning in the communal men's showers on Deck 3 because it seemed much easier and also meant that our shared facilities were available to others - a good decision as it turns out in that the communal showers are larger than the cabin shower and easier to use.

The ship is an open ship in every sense of the word. No doors lock (i.e. all cabins are always unlocked), you can go onto the bridge at anytime, take photos, ask questions or simply watch and also go to other technical areas.

Ship's Position in Bridge

The above shows the ship's position at 1339 on 4th January on one of the Bridge navigation devices. Later on in the day the chart will show that we have been zigzagging rather than sailing in a straight line. Apparently this was to enable the ship to avoid the worse effects of bad weather (described as even worse bumping and rolling).

Being a Russian ship, the onboard currency is the US$ but money never changes hands, the cost is just added to your account.

The "mud room" where our waders are stored seems to have been some sort of technical equipment room back in the days when the Ioffe was a spy ship. They say that the ship is now a Research Ship - I cannot see any sign of that at the moment (nor can one see any sign of spying).

The program for the day shows that four lectures and a film are scheduled. The birds lecture was very good and entertaining, and as a consequence we went on deck and managed to take a picture of a bird following the ship using the "soaring technique" which enables them to fly very long distances without really using their wings for propulsion. There follows a Cape Painted Petrel from above

Cape Painted Petrel

and underneath

Cape Painted Petrel (underneath)

and then a Black Browed Albatross

Black Browed Albatross

Whilst these are just bird pictures taken from the stern of the ship, we now know numerous bird facts, how they fly / soar, what they eat, the distances they cover etc, but the only one I shall repeat is that Albatrosses do not mate for life, they have a preference but given other choices, will take them.

By the end of the Bird Lecture, the Drake "Rock and Roll" had got a lot more noticeable so we only managed a few minutes of the Geology lecture (part 1 of 4) before the need to lie down became very strong.

Over lunch crockery starts flying off the table and various things off the shelves of our room. Unfortunately the reason is not that of poltergeists. Most of the chairs are individually attached to the floor by a fairly short chain so that when your chair starts sliding across the floor, you know that hanging on will be all that is required to stop you landing up on somebody else or in another room.

There are rules and techniques related to walking around the ship in bad weather. The first rule is always to hold onto a handrail with at least two hands, the second is to walk with your legs wide apart and with your bottom as low as possible. Pat is brilliant at this as the following short video extract shows.

insert video from YouTube here

The afternoon lectures comprised a fascinating and enthusiastic account of Shackleton's escape from the Antarctic (having read his journal we felt well prepared for this) and a detailed technical explanation of seal life, again delivered with passion. It was nice that there were no holds bard in the lectures - it was assumed we were there to learn and they therefore were going to teach us. The explanation of why seals can dive to the depths and duration that they do was particularly interesting (PRH being a diver).

By the time of the evening meal, the sea had really got rough with 20 knot winds, a very heavy swell, the boat slowed down to 10 knots and people rapidly starting departing the dining room (including us). A further lie down was called for and we stayed there until morning.


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