Crossing the Drake

Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2010

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Monday, March 22, 2010

After leaving Ushuaia, you pass through the Beagle Channel to reach the open seas.  This part takes about 5 hours, and tends to be relatively calm.  The stretch of open water between South America and Antarctica is part of the Southern Ocean refered to as the Drake Passage.  Known as "Drake Lake" when itīs calm, and "The Drake Shake" when itīs rough, this is one of the most ferocious and rough stretches of open water there is -- and it takes two days to get across. 

In our briefing on the first night, they gave us the good -- and not so good - news.  As we sat in port in Ushuaia, waiting out the wind, a storm was raging in the Drake Passage.  The good news was that, since we hadnīt left yet, we would be following on the tail end of the squall rather than passing through it.  The bad news?  It was expected to leave behind 18 foot swells.

So we spent Sunday and Monday crossing, and alternating between feeling a bit queasy, and violently ill.  Luckily, the crossing went quite smoothly, and the majority passed without incident.  The crew was quite excited, telling us this was the smoothest crossing of the season (even with the 18 foot swells...)

To pass the time, they had several activities -- a series of lectures on Antarctic facts, birds, penguins, and history, and movies about the continent and some of the early explorers -- we watched one movie about the Shackleton adventure which left me feeling very warm, fuzzy and healthy knowing that I wasnīt on that boat!  We also spent some time out on the decks watching the birds -- albatrosses and petrols of various types -- floating gracefully in the wind.

On Monday afternoon, just around 4 or so, we began our approach to the South Shetland Islands, and we were greeted with calmer seas and... our first iceburg!!  This, of course, caused quite a comotion on the ship, after two days of just seeing open water.  John and I joined many others in scrambling up to the bridge to take in the views.  It was cold, it was snowy, and the windows of the bridge were covered with a thick layer of ice.  But just outside, there was an iceburg.  Despite the layer of ice present on the decks outside, and the warning not to go out, many people couldnīt resist the opportunity to pop quickly outside and snap that first-iceburg photo. 

On Monday evening, right before dinner, we reached the South Shetland Islands.  We passed through the English Channel, and continued straight across to the Antarctic peninsula, without stopping in the islands. 
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Kathy on

As I've said before-- WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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