Heading south from Macquarie Island we have had some relatively calm seas, pretty remarkable for this part of the world.
Leaving the Roaring Forties which gave us a pretty slow rolling sea the fifties gave us a small taste of what it had to offer with some mild five-metre seas. Passing past 60 degrees south was significant as that is the line of latitude that marks the start of the Antarctic Treaty, the international piece of legislation that New Zealand is a signatory to.
The treaty was established in 1959 to dedicate Antarctica to peace and science.
What passing into the sixties has also provided us with our first icebergs. I guess I had imagined that the first ones we would see would be small….I could not have been more wrong. The first ones I saw were enormous, like large land masses that completely dwarfed the ship.
As we head now for the Antarctic circle at 66.33 degrees south ( ETA 5.20pm), the line where on the longest day the sun does not set. We have been keeping a vigil on the bridge looking our for whales and icebergs. We have so far seen about six humpbacks, none at terribly close range, but still visible with the naked eye and confirmed by looking at them with binoculars and some rather spectacular camera shots.
Seeing humpbacks down here is pleasing, as they were once hunted so fiercely as to nearly wipe them out. In the 1961-62 whaling season the Russian whaling fleet took nearly 28000 humpbacks out of the population south of New Zealand, which spelled the end to the whaling industry in New Zealand.
This species seems to be recovering well of the East coast of Australia, sadly very few are still passing by New Zealand, let’s hope that improves. The Japanese still have them on their list of species to take in their “scientific whaling” programme, which is a concern.
A single humpback whale represents US$1,000,000 to the whale watching industry in Tonga over it’s lifetime.
This afternoon we have been passing more and more icebergs, each shape as extraordinary as the next. From small little floaters that they call “growlers”, which get their name from the sound they make if the collide with the ship, to great monuments like this one that looks like the Arche Du Triomphe.
Ok I am heading back to the bridge to keep looking out for whales!