Monday, December 10, 2012

Antarctica, Part 2 – Crossing the Drake Passage

We boarded the ship in Ushuaia, Argentina on November 21, 2012 and set out to cross the Drake Passage from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Drake Passage is where the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. One has warm water, the other has cold water and the mixture makes for very rough seas. It was a three-day trip and we had been warned to expect ten to twenty foot swells even in the summer time, so we had prescription medicine for the seasickness. Miraculously, neither I nor Al got seasick! Of course, Al was used to rough seas after spending over four years on a little destroyer in the Navy. I had grown up going deep sea fishing with my Uncle Charlie at Tybee Island, Georgia, so I was used to bobbing up and down on waves all day long in a small boat. About half of the passengers did get seasick, as evidenced by the fact that the dining room was half empty for the three day crossing. They kept the on-board doctor busy!
It took some skill to navigate around the ship. When the ship was heading into the waves, it would rock up and down. There were railings in the hallways. I learned to grab onto a rail and wait while the boat went up, then to run down the passageway as far as I could get while the boat was going down into a swell. Then I would grab the rail again while the boat ascended the next swell. When the boat rocked side to side, I just bounced off one side of the wall to the other, trying to move as far forward as I could in between bounces. Every time we saw another passenger, Al would sing, “What do you do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?” That usually elicited a smile from the person stumbling through the passage way!
By the third day we reached what is known as the Convergence Zone, where the cold water circulates around the continent, not mixing with warmer temperatures. Here the seas became calmer and the dining room filled up with all the passengers again. We were officially in Antarctic waters!

Pictures were taken during the crossing. Two show the overcast skies, water, and birds. Many of the Antarctic birds spend most of their lives in the air and they like to follow the ships. The movement of the ships creates air currents that are easy for them to glide upon, thus conserving their strength. There is a picture of me standing at the railing. On one side there would be no wind, but on the other side the wind would be so strong you could not open the door to the deck. I, of course, am standing on the windless side. The indoor pictures were taken in the observation deck. There I am, trying to write in my journal between swells. Al took this picture of the baby grand piano, tied down so it would not roll in the rough swells. They also had special rubber mats on the tables in the club and dining room to keep the dishes from sliding off.

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