Ships in the Drake Passage are often good plafforms for the sighting of whales, dolphins and plentiful sea¬birds including giant petrels, other petrels, albatrosses and penguins.
12.01.2007 - 12.01.2007
John was up early this morning, going to the forward observation lounge on the top deck in order to get a panoramic view of the *Drake Passage. A gun-metal gray sea surrounds us as far as the eye can see. The passage is "smooth" according to the captain and some other seasoned travelers, but the ship rolls and dips on the four to five foot swells enough for most of us to lose our balance once in a while. In mid afternoon, the waves got larger, but they soon subsided.
We ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Breakfast and lunch are open seating buffets, as will be most of the dinners because of groups of people being shuttled back and forth from our landings. Four diners will be at assigned tables. The food is excellent and plentiful. Along with hot entrees, there are always cold cuts and cheeses for sandwiches.
There were several presentations hosted throughout the day. The first was about the geological history of Antarctica, hosted by a retired German professor. He explained how Antarctica was once connect to South America, Australia, India, and Africa in one giant continent. The other two presentations were hosted by the naturalists who are on staff here. One show was specifically on penguins and the other was on the other wildlife we may encounter — birds, seals, and whales.
After lunch, both of us went onto the aft deck and watched the birds swim around the wake of the ship, gliding down to the water to pick out any fish that are churned to the top. We've seen wandering albatross (with wing spans of up to 10 ft.), black-browed albatross, and many different kinds of smaller sea birds called petrels. Most of these birds rarely flap their winds; they just constantly glide on the wind (and there is a lot of wind down here).
In the evening, we were invited to a reception hosted by our captain. Champagne was given to everyone in order to toast to a successful journey. Then we went to dinner. We've chosen the late dinner at 8:00 p.m. vs. the earlier one. Only eight of us from the Vantage group opted for the late dinner; this way we get to meet some of the other travelers, many of whom are from Europe.
Off to rest up for tomorrow and our first landing!
- The Drake Passage is the body of water between the southern tip of South America and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean. It is named after 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake, although he never sailed the passage, opting instead for the less turbulent Strait of Magellan. The first recorded voyage through the passage was that of the Eendracht, captained by Willem Schouten in 1616.
- The 810 km (500 miles) wide passage is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to the rest of the world's land. There is no significant land anywhere around the world at the latitudes of the Drake Passage, which is important to the unimpeded flow of the Antarctic circumpolar current which carries a huge volume of water (about 600 times the flow of the Amazon) through the passage and around Antarctica.
- Seas in the Drake Passage are famously rough, with waves over 30 feet high not uncommon. Located between 56 and 60 degrees south latitude, the passage is undoubtedly the source of the sailors' maxim that "Below 40 degrees, there is no law. Below 50 degrees, there is no God."