We rang in New Year’s tonight with champagne and the Fillipino staff singing Abba on karaoke, and while I may be guilty of having slipped away early (or run away…) it was still a memorable way to celebrate the holiday. Prior to the evening’s festivities today was ridiculously good for a day spent at sea. I got up a bit before seven this morning and joined Rod and Jim on the deck of the ship to see what might show up. Birds were flying around in abundance, and despite my limited mental capacity Jim managed to teach me the names of a few more.
The day’s highlight occurred during lunch when Doug came on the public address system and announced that they “might have sighted some sperm whales”. Since sperm whales typically dive for thirty minutes at a time I figured there was time to eat, but shortly thereafter an announcement was made that on closer inspection the sperm whales had morphed into a pod of eight fin whales. Fin whales are the second largest of all whales, and this group stayed with us for nearly an hour. Unfortunately, having run for the decks as soon as Doug said “fin whale” I was protected against the cold and wind by only a light thermal; luckily the adrenaline rush from having a pod of giant whales lunging out of the water as close as fifty feet away allowed me to ignore the frantic messages my body was sending about freezing. Only forty-five minutes later when the whales had departed did the effects of high winds and temperatures in the forties become fully obvious, but I probably can’t complain given that Carter was standing next to me during most of the sighting wearing nothing more than a short-sleeved shirt.
The day’s other activities included a beautiful slideshow by Rod, and my own miserable attempts at photographing birds that were flying by the boat at high speeds. If only giant petrels really were blurry in real life, or if albatrosses without heads were a common sight then I would have some great images, but sadly in the non-bizarro world I think I’ll end up deleting all of them and declaring today’s photo shoot to be practice for later in the trip.