Antarctica (53°47’S 76°81’W)

Date: 24/2/2011
Temp: 2°C
Conditions: Overcast
Winds: 15- 18 knots WSW

Head South Eastward as we set sail!  Wind was picking up in Usuaria as we left the port. High streaking cirrus clouds show a change in weather from the sun of the last few days. Bags arrive after being delayed for 2 days, but should have picked up some rum or whisky for the voyage ahead. It might be cold to say the least. Boat is well crewed and equipt, comprehensive saftey drill and briefing.  Passengers average around 45-50, fairly even split of nationalities; Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and British people mostly.

The Beagle channel gets choppy into nightfall and the boat starts rocking as we approach the famous Drake passage. I have a set sail beer (Irish Red- nice!) Champagne reception with our Russian captain Alexi. We have double the capacity lifeboats and rafts for everyone.  Is this over compensating for the Titanic affair!?  Everything is high tech, with survival suits and life jackets for polar regions.  Sea sickness easier with no alcohol and light food. So a 5 course dinner with champagne will help everyone! Good cold fish starter, hot fish for main. In for fattening up here as there seems to be a 5 course meal available every eveing, including a good cheese board.

People start retiring for the evening early in preparation…. I didn’t bring sea sickness tablets, but will only take some if I am actually sick unlike most people’s strategy. The tablets make you sleep. A lot.

Meet a couple who live in London, Bob a staff member who will be taking me camping. Around 25 will be camping in Antarctica which will be good. Also an opportunity to jump into freezing waters (between -1.8 and 1°C) from the main boat.  The point about a flexible schedule is reiterated. Our first place we are aiming to navigate to is the South Shetland Islands, which is the closest volcanic mountain chain off the coast of the Antarctican peninsula. This area is good to shelter from storms. Our weather forecast shows a stors heading towards us with maximum wind speeds of 50 knots, but is forecast to slump south. Pre-frontal winds of 25knts hit us during the night and our entrance to the Drake passage. This is expected to switch direction and come from the north, which is behind us. Only one other person in public areas. I visit the bridge and meet Barrios the officer in command, who regails stories of the seas. Cross section winds meana night of rolling side to side. I have a last cigarette on deck staring into the black waters at 12:45am watching the spray kick up from the bow.

Japanese cabin mate already feels sick and was immediately green after a whisky. Both also snore- a lot.

Related Posts: