The Drake Shake

The ship entered the Drake Passage while we were sleeping last night. It started off with a nice gentle rocking of the boat but before too long the gentle rocking turned heavier and we found that we had more to learn about ‘Drake proofing’ the cabin – anything on the tables or not locked up fell to the floor or started rolling around, including us snuggled in our beds! It wasn’t so serious that we fell out of bed but there were a few times where it felt like we might.

The rocking lasted most of the night and then at 7 am our Expedition Leader called us to breakfast. We quickly learned how to walk like penguins – the elevator in the boat doesn’t work when conditions are bad and mom and I had a cabin on the 6th floor so we rocked it on down to the dining room on the 2nd floor and tried not to fall on top of our fellow travelers. Breakfast on the boat is served buffet style so the crew serves you coffee or tea at your table and you prepare your plate. Carrying a full plate while the ship was wobbling wasn’t easy and the crew stepped in to help anyone who was overly wobbly.

The rocking stayed that way much of the day – through lunch and then to dinner. The seasickness patches did their jobs and the ‘shake’ wasn’t so serious that we had to stay in our rooms (that’s what happens when the shaking is really bad) so we considered ourselves lucky and rode it out.

There’s not a lot to look at when the boat is at sea – miles and miles of ocean and no visible land as far as the eye can see. The expedition leaders offered several lectures on Antarctic whales, birds, history, geology, etc. to keep us entertained and if you were really diligent you could stand out on deck and look for any one of the 40+ species of seabirds that call the area home. I missed it but some of those diligent few actually saw a Royal Albatross!

The weather progressively got colder the further south we went and you had to gear up to go out on deck. By the end of the day, we were still nowhere near land but were starting to get our sea legs. I found myself reveling in the feel of endless ocean all around – it made you appreciate how distant Antarctica really is.

Those of us who were well enough gathered in the bar after dinner to ring in the New Year. It was December 31, 2019 and the trip leaders and ship crew prepared a special evening for us to celebrate — a midnight buffet and champagne toast somewhere between Argentina and the South Falkland Islands. The excitement was mounting as we would arrive in Antarctica the next day — what a great way to start off 2020!


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