Saturday, December 10, 2016

Antarctic Trip: Crossing the Drake, December 7-9, 2016

Getting close--icebergs ahead
It took 48 hours to cross Drake Passage. Drake Passage, stretching 1000km/600mi is the body of water between South America's Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. Ships make the crossing at a right angle to the currents. There will almost certainly be high wind accompanied by waves. When conditions are really awful, the crossing is referred to as Drake Shake. There are many, many youtube videos showing how truly frightening and sickness inducing the crossing can be.

There are sites that give advice regarding sea sickness. These are some of the suggestions:
1. have sea-sickness meds,
2. stay on deck as much as possible,
3. look at the horizon to fool your body into thinking that you're not really bouncing back and forth and up and down at the same time,

When conditions are good, or you are lucky, the passage is called Drake Lake. While I wouldn't say we had the lake conditions, we did have it good. We took the precaution of filling a prescription for sea-sickness patches which we applied our first night on board before we hit Drake Passage. The meds insured that for two days we were pretty doped up and never missed a meal. Since the rough crossing didn't materialize, Dramamine would have been sufficient to get us through the first hours, but you never know. That said, the dining room was only half full for the first day of meals, and the onboard doctor handed out 100s of seasickness pills. My advice is to get the patches, put them on before the Drake, and remain in the zombie zone for those 48 hours.

Besides that the scenery was gray--gray water, gray sky, and nothing to see for that 48-hour period. Much like modern day Noah, once through the long water passage, birds appeared. Disconcertingly, instead of doves we saw carrion eaters like the Southern Giant Petrel flying low over the ship.

Land ho! While enjoying our first dinner post Drake Passage crossing, beyond the windows sun lighting the edges of ice/snow covered land.

At 9:45 pm, brilliant color appeared beneath the dark clouds.

A few minutes later at 10:06 pm the darkest clouds had moved on permitting a blush of color to show itself in the sky. I took that as a sign of a bright future for us in Antarctica.

Our 48 hours crossing the Drake weren't wasted. We spent some of the time trying on and exchanging our new bright yellow polar expedition jackets (ours to keep), getting fitted for waterproof boots, cleaning and checking our exterior clothing to make sure it had no freeloading seeds or plants stuck in the cuffs or velcro, and participating in a lifeboat drill.

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