Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Drake Passage - Take One

At the end of my last post about my Antarctica trip, the National Geographic Endeavour had just pulled away from its dock at Ushuaia, Argentina and was on its way. As on any ship, the first thing we all had to do was a mandatory safety briefing where you learn how to put on your life vest (we actually donned life jackets every time we left the ship on zodiacs, which was at least twice a day) and where to go in an emergency. I've been through drills like this on other boats countless times, but when the Explorer sank just a few days afterward and our ship was one of two that came to the rescue, it took on a whole different meaning and I think we were all glad that they made us pay attention during the drill.

But at that point we of course did not know what awaited us, so my husband and I took some time upfront to explore the ship--it was essentially a mini-mini-mini version of other cruise ships we have been on in the past. There was a mini-gym, a mini-library, a mini-store, and so on. However, our room was about the same size as it had been on other ships (pretty much because those rooms can't get any smaller in the first place), and the lounge/bar area and dining room were large enough to hold all 102 guests at once, so they didn't feel too crowded.

Yes, all rooms had separate beds and you couldn't move them together. I found that hilarious. But I will say that I slept better on that bed than I have in years--probably something to do with taking a lot of anti-seasickness medicine, being exhausted every day and being gently rocked to sleep on the waves every night (except three of the nights, but I'll get to that later). Truly, though, it was a comfortable bed.

After we got our bearings inside (OK, so we actually couldn't figure out where we were on the ship for like 3 days--details!) we walked around on the various decks outside to take in the scenery. The beginning and the end of the trip were when the most sea birds followed the ship, because at that point you're still in relatively warm weather, and it's when the ship kicks up the most krill and other yucky stuff from the sea that birds like to eat. It's like a free meal for them just following the ship. I would have posted some bird pictures, but I don't think that justice would be done to the birds as you really can't see how magnificent they are. There were giant albatrosses and petrels and all sorts of birds that you can't find anywhere else. I liked it because it looked like they were having fun chasing the ship and swooping all around us.

OK, fine, here's one bird picture. I can't tell which one it is, though, but it might have been an albatross because it was HUGE.

I then tried to get a "I'm the king of the woooorrrrllllllldd!" picture, but it was SO windy that I nearly got blown over. So I couldn't get up any higher on the boat for fear of being knocked overboard (you can see the wave ahead of the ship... trust me, it was rocky), but I attempted to get into the pose nonetheless. Luckily, only one other passenger (besides my husband, who already knows I'm goofy) saw me do this.

What happened over the next 1.5 days was a whole lot of rockin' and rollin' as we crossed the infamous Drake Passage--the area where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, known as the roughest stretch of open sea in the world. While I will write a little about our experience on the Drake in my next post about the trip, I found this guy's write-up (he was not on my ship, his post was linked from Wikipedia) pretty accurate, though no one on my ship got seriously hurt.

As we started entering the Drake I popped a few Bonine (later finding out that I read the directions wrong and should have only taken one, which would account for the fact that I slept much of the subsequent 36 hours), mentally prepared myself (let's just say I'm known to get seasick) and started praying.

- e

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