Since the new millenium started, the Bark Europa has undertaken voyages to Antarctica. Over 15 years she has been crossing the Drake Passage on her way to Antarctica, bringing many people an unforgettable expieriene: impressions of the white continent and its natural inhabitants, a barrel filled to the brim with memories (and many, many pictures), and fellow-passengers who have turned from anonymous faces into friends for the rest of their live.
One of these new groups arrived on board the day before yesterday. With a handshakes we present ourselves to the others, but it's all new and strange - except for one or two who have sailed the Europa before. In the early morning of the 17th of January the Europa moved over to the bunker pier, taking in new fuel and drinking water. While the tanks are loaded, the mate leads the mandatory Abandon Ship Drill out on the main deck. After an hour or two the Europa noses into the Beagle Channel, the start of a new adventure.
Everybody is still exploring the ship, which is going to be our new home for the next three weeks. Crew members take each watch around the ship for the instructions that may sound odd to some, but that will become daily routines very soon. In the afternoon, after an re-energizing lunch, climbing instructions are provided to each of the watches, and everyone is invited to have a first go at it. The weather is calm, creating a good opportunity to train. Many go aloft to the first platform, and come back down via the other side. Birdlife is surprisingly scarce during the first half of the afternoon.
One of the new faces even asked the guides if we were going to see Sei Whales - a not-so-common sighting at all, that is impossible to promise. As the wind increased, so did the number of birds: black-browed albatrosses were soaring above the waves, cormorants were flapping low above the waves, and we saw Magellanic Penguins both swimming and on
land. Even whale blows were reported. And yes, for sure: two Sei Whales were sighted, swimming into the Beagle Channel while we were going in opposite direction. In the hours to follow there were regular sightings on Dusky and Peale's Dolphins. Dolphins live in tight pods that never split up. They know each other individually. I have a feeling that by the end of this trip, this new group that came on board yesterday will have turned into a pod of dolphins too, keeping in touch with one another for many years to come.