Tuesday, December 13, 2011

At Sea (Nov. 8)

Today was spent at sea between the Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. 
I woke this morning and felt the gentle rise and fall of the ship that had been rocking me to sleep all night. We are fortunate that this is a gentle rocking rather than the sound beating the sea can give you. As I opened the shade to look outside, I was immediately greeted by a seemingly smiling Cape Petrel, one of several species of seabirds that would be our companions all day. 
A day at sea can seem boring to some, relaxing to others, but to the very observant, it changes constantly. As wind rises or falls, the seas become more choppy or smoother, and the birds respond to the wind that carries then and powers their graceful flight.  
I saw the very first albatross only moments after opening the shade for the window, and they are amazing!  They fly inches above the waves without flapping and never seem to move even a single muscle. They are more home in the air than I am on land. I see how they can spend years at sea without returning to land. 
As the day progressed, it became apparent that the empty, featureless sea is neither empty nor featureless. Groups of albatrosses and penguins were visible signs of concentrations of sea creatures below the surface. South American fur seals looked up at us with their dog-like faces and turned swimming quickly away. Currents and variations invisible or nearly invisible to us are clear landmarks to the animals of the sea.  
Besides all that, life on the ship can be busy. There are shipmates to meet, meals to be eaten, lectures to be heard, and maybe even a little sleep to be had. 
We capped it all off tonight with a full moon rising over a glassy sea with the pink and purple from the sunset still lighting the horizon. 
Not a bad day. 

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