Probably the best Drake Passage crossing ever.....
Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
332Trip End Jan 19, 2007
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We miss breakfast and the first lecture which was about Saving the Albatross which is a shame as it sounds like a worthwhile campaign. We make it to the Antarctica recap and Q&A session where all the expedition team are to answer questions or respond to our feedback. Is an interesting session where we find out the following:
- In the 1980s there were about 2k tourists a year to Antarctica. In the 1990s it was about 10k a year and it is now about 24-30k. Although 5-10k of these dont land on the continent itself which seems a bit pointless to us.
- We have travelled about 1990 nautical miles in total (over 3500 km)
- The staff have witnessed some changes in the continent in the last 10+ years with varying quantities of snow and increase in many places probably due to global warming. They reckon our impact is minimal and scientists actually make significantly more impact on the keeping the place pristine.
After lunch we visit the bridge as the crossing is pretty smooth (although we have still taken tablets just in case) to see if we can spot anything and ask them to help complete our navigational chart we bougth in Ushuaia.
Next there is an environmental display/talk where we find out about recycling paper the really harmful affects of bleaching paper and most interestingly about fish conservation. There was a chart showing which fish it is best to eat according to how damaging it is to fish population and also how methods of catching can kill large quantities of birds and also by-catch (stuff they arent trying to catch). Most disturbingly, for me this included shrimp, my favourite. We get a little chart of what fish is safest etc and vow to ask in restaurants and shops before we buy. If you are interested here are some links:
Fish to avoid
Fish to eat
More general info on fish conservation
Another lecture on Beaconites, the enigmatic Antarctic trace fossils. Have to say we half reluctantly come to the geology lectures feeling we should maximise the opportunity to learn something. Lance, the geologist however is very good and funny so it is actually pretty interesting stuff. Apparently he has found lots of these in my favourite childhood holiday destination Pembroke, Wales.
Glorious weather outside and continues to be smooth as we chill for the rest of the day and sleep soundly.
Had a quiz in the evening where we managed to remember enough of what we have learned to come 3rd, not bad, but we missed out on the champagne for the winners!
Up at 6am as we are woken to be told we are approaching Cape Horn the very tail end of South America, the southernmost Cape in the world and feared by sailors across the globe as being the most dangerous.
After hot muffins for early bird snacks and breakfast I wonder why I am so tired? We drag ourselves to the film showing a clipper charting these waters many years ago. It is pretty horrific viewing as the seas are raging, although that was what the commentator was praying for so it could say he witnessed it as it should be! After a nap and our last lunch on board we enter the Beagle Channel. No more visits to the bridge now the pilot is on board. Instead we occupy ourselves watching the land either side of us feeling strange to see it and the odd house or man-made feature.
Another recap from the team and photo presentation from our trip plus info on disembarcation. Everyone is very quiet, I think its because we are all so sad that its coming to an end. I am not sure if I was the only one, but I felt like crying as I so want to carry on on this expedition. As hopefully many of you will know I am not usually quite so emotional or gushing about things but this whole trip has been like a magical dream and I dont want it to end.
After we talk to others who I think feel the same way. Some say they just want to sit in Ushuaia for a week and reflect on this trip so it all sinks in properly as there is too much to process. I completely understand that, although we dont have the time sadly.
Instead we divert ourselves by planning our Central America route where we will be in about a week. We have been able to glean lots of info from our fellow travellers (and also bored them with ours esp about the trans siberian which seems to be the most interesting to most). It has been nice to recount trips and memories with people as it reminds us of the last 10 months too.
We start to pack our bags and then enjoy the afternoon on deck in the sunshine. We see Puerto Williams on the Chilean side, a shipwreck half jutting out of the water, a lighthouse and then in the distance Ushuaia.
The boat edges very slowly towards our destination, it is as if it senses none of us want to get there! We settle our trip accounts and pay our tip - it has been a cashless society on board just attributed to our tag numbers. We are proud of only spending $9 and that was all on postage!
Fill in our evaluation form which has undoubtedly been my most positive ever. I struggle to find a way to suggest to improve the trip and can only suggest letting the crew experience Antarctica more than they did (one group got a chance to go on land).
Then Oscar, one of the staff, hosts an charity auction where they sell off our ships flag, navigational chart, t-shirt etc. They raise about $1,000 which is good, esp as they are so many of us tight backpackers on board. The Captain lowers the flag with Aaron and the lucky winner and then thanks us for coming on board. He also tells us that our Drake Passage crossing was the 2nd best he had ever experienced! We are then introduced and applaud the chefs before we herd in for our last dinner.
Many of us get off to go the supermarket and buy some cheaper alcohol or just to get on land. Once on the wharf we can see how big the neighbouring ship is compared to our Little Red Ship. It didnt feel that little to us though!
There is a beautiful red sunset a great contrast to the snowy mountains.