Day 2: The Drake Passage

Antarctica is a big land mass surrounded entirely by water. There is no land anywhere around the world at the latitudes of the Drake, so water (and wind) flows unimpeded. It’s known for being the roughest seas in the world.
The night before, Alex (the expedition leader) had shown us wind maps with the forecast for the next day on the Drake. It looked like it would be a fairly easy crossing. I’ve never been seasick before, so I wasn’t sure if I would have any issues, so I decided not to take anything the night before.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the rocking of the boat. I had a hard time falling back asleep, although I did sleep long enough to dream that we were on a bus to Antarctica but the bus driver kept stopping at random places, and I thought, “If she keeps stopping, we’ll never get there!”

At 7:30am, Alex woke us up over the PA system first by playing a song, then told us generally the plan for the day. The Drake was fairly calm, he said, and it should be even better the next day. On the docket for the day were a few lectures, which were all shown on the daily program, which was both posted in various places on the ship and broadcast on the TVs in our rooms.

Breakfast began at 8. (I will write more about how the meals worked and what the food was like in a separate post.) The Drake was calm! This was not a rough crossing! And yet I could not believe how much movement there was. Things were sliding around all over the place. You had to hold onto the handrails or the walls when you walked, and when you looked out the windows, you often saw only water or only sky, depending on which way the ship was tilting. Everyone was stumbling around like they were drunk.

Beans, potatoes or toast, and grapefruit, along with a club regular breakfast each morning.

Beans, potatoes or toast, and grapefruit, along with a club soda…my regular breakfast each morning.

The tables in the dining room were covered with the sticky material that I’ve seen in rug pads to hold down the tableware. (Brilliant.) Didn’t keep your silverware from sliding around on your plate, though.

The doctor, Jeet, was always available by phone if you needed him.

The doctor, Jeet, was always available by phone if you needed him.

They put out some handy bags in the hallways. I felt a little woozy, but I didn’t feel nauseated, so I thought I was doing ok.

The first lecture started at 9:30 in the main lounge. Jimmy the marine biologist (or “the whale guy,” as I came to think of him) was doing a presentation on whales. The main lounge was dark (the shades were pulled over the windows) and warm, and just about 10 minutes into his talk I had the feeling that if I didn’t leave the room I was going to pass out. I went out and sat in the chilly wind on the deck for a few minutes, and then I said, “Screw it,” and decided to take a pill.

I had gotten a prescription for phenergan before I left, just in case. My doctor warned that it makes you really drowsy. So I took one and went to lie down in my cabin. I put the TV on, because they broadcast the lectures from the lounge on one of the channels, but I fell asleep so fast I didn’t actually hear any of it. I slept right through the next lecture on ice, too, and finally woke up at lunchtime. I was still sleepy but I felt so much better. I hadn’t even realized how bad I’d felt that morning until I didn’t feel that bad anymore. SO GLAD for the phenergan.
There was another lecture in the afternoon on seabirds. The phenergan was making me super sleepy but I found that I could force myself to stay awake, so I managed to attend the bird lecture. Then I dozed for a bit in the lounge while waiting for the next lecture to start, this one by Laurie, the historian, about the discovery and early exploration of Antarctica.

At 5:30 we had our daily re-cap. It is funny that they called it a re-cap because the purpose of the meeting was for them to tell us about plans for the next day; we didn’t re-cap anything! But they called it a re-cap so I will call it a re-cap. This day there wasn’t a lot to report, because the next day was just another sea day. Alex showed us more wind charts to show that the Drake should continue to be “smooth.” (And I made a mental note to continue taking the phenergan.)

At 7pm, they hosted the Captain’s Cocktails in the lounge, and our ship captain gave a little speech, and we toasted the voyage.
And then it was dinnertime. And here came my biggest surprise of the day. This was February 10, my birthday, which I had basically not thought much about. The whole trip was so exciting I had too much other stuff on my mind. So you can imagine how completely surprised I was when after dinner, while we were waiting for dessert to be brought out, all of a sudden there were waiters behind me with a cake!
The whole room sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and then they took it away and sliced it up and served it to everyone at our table. (I actually don’t know if everyone else had cake, too, or what.) There was another guy on board who had the same birthday, so they brought out a cake for him next and we all sang to him.

I was super impressed with Quark on this. Jeff and Allen had nothing to do with this. Jeff told me later he had tried to tell someone that morning that it was my birthday and they told him, “Oh, we already know whose birthday it is.” LOL. And not only did they surprise me with this cake, but they knew where I was sitting in the dining room. (I mean, they did have my passport, so they could use that picture, I guess?) It was only the second night, so they hadn’t had much time to learn who we all were yet.

Anyway, most exciting birthday ever, and that really had nothing to do with the fact that it was my birthday.

The next day we were expected to cross the Antarctic Convergence–where the cold waters of the Antarctic meet the warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic, marking a total change in marine life–and have our first sightings of icebergs and Antarctic wildlife. EXCITING!

1 Comment

  1. Sophie March 14, 2015

    Loving this blog Karen! And you’ve settled any doubt in my mind. Have always wanted to do this trip but thought I probably couldn’t make it across DP. Now I know for sure. I am the person who ended up in the onboard hospital on a Caribbean cruise and needed phenergan to make it through that trip! Will have to live vicariously through you. x


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