Probably the best Drake Passage crossing ever.....

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
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Trip End Jan 19, 2007


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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tues 21st
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. While we are there Adam, one of the naturalists spots a King Penguin bobbing in the water. We see it but its too far to photograph, strange its here as its miles away from any colony. By the time Adam has announced it on the PA it is long gone and the hordes come out to watch the sea drift by. The chief Navigational Officer helps us plot our chart with all our landings and routes. This will go on our wall when we get home/to Oz. He also tells us about the expeditions they do up the west coast of the UK and very close to Dave sisters home, Isle of Mull of Scotland. We will tell her to keep an eye out.

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!

Wed 22nd
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. We brace ourselves as we head outside although it doesnt feel too bumpy. Another calm day. How lucky are we? We see lots of little islands and rocks which just shows how difficult it is to navigate but we are blessed with calm seas. There are hundreds of shipwrecks in this area, we almost wish we could dive to see them.

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. It is only mid afternoon and we plan to arrive at about 1800 for docking. We are not actually due until 8am tomorrow but our crossing has been too quick! Think the staff and crew are happy but we arent although it means we can actually temporarily leave the boat to go into town tonight if we want.

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. We are now in port and our view consists of the most gigantic cruise ship ever with balconies for cabins and wicker chairs. It looks truly apalling. Dinner was great though and after we stuff ourselves with more blue cheese and some of our new friends have some port which is a great accompaniment.

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. We get back on board and smuggle our wine into the bar where we play Scrabble for a bit and chat plus I play the piano (the little that I can remember). Yes, too much wine again. Dont get to bed til gone 2 - not a great idea.
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Comments

paulsobon
paulsobon on

Wow!
Dave and Emma,
You've just accomplished the trip of my dreams! I've talked about going to Antartica for a while -- now I must go soon! Thanks for the great description and pics!
Paul

arcticqueen
arcticqueen on

Thanks for the insight!
What a FANTASTIC JOURNEY! I am soo excited because I'll be doing something very similar in Jan 08, and have been 'trolling' all the sites I can for as much info! Your record has given me a taste of what I will experience - including hopefully the same great weather!!!! :) I have wanted to do this trip for 30 years, so, like you, it's a dream come true, and I'm looking forward with great anticipation to this once in a lifetime opportunity!!!

arcticqueen
arcticqueen on

Antarctica
Thanks for your reply! I just realised that you could have thought I was doing the whole trip that you guys did, however, going to Antarctica is my dream! I took great delight in reading your lovely detailed descriptions of each day, and just imagined myself doing the same! My sister, her husband and myself will leave end Dec 07, and head to Argentina, stay in Buenos Aires, then Iggassu Falls, and then down to catch our boat at Ushuaia on Jan 9. We're looking at including a couple of other places too, probably after our return from Antar. Details still to be finalised, so if there are any suggestions of places not to miss, please let me know!

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