Friday, May 3, 2013

Crossing 'The Drake' - homeward bound...............

January 28 and 29, 2013 - The Drake Passage
At first sunny, windy - Later very rough! 

It's hard to say goodbye to a place so awesome knowing you 
will probably never have the chance to visit again.

Antarctica is that place for me, the one where memories 
are etched permanently on my brain, and pictorialized 
here on my that I will never forget 
my days spent in such majestic places at the 
bottom of the world. 

Leaving the ice and starting the long crossing of the 
Drake Passage.......

.......knowing there would be no more of these, and other 
delightful creatures, was really sad, however there was 
plenty of excitement ahead to keep us busy!

Sir Francis Drake,(like Sir Walter Raleigh, and me too!) was born in Devon, England. Their early homes were within a few miles of mine. Perhaps that's why we all love the sea and had adventurous goes with the territory. Devonians have always been known as sailors, fishermen and farmers - Devon is still a county where making a living from the sea or the rolling farmland comes first. Drake went to sea at age 13 and between 1577-60 sailed around the world - the first Englishman to do so - creating nautical charts of new territories. In 1577 a storm pushed his ship below 57 degrees latitude south and he discovered the meeting of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans - the turbulent waters were later named after him as the Drake Passage. 

Ask any sailor where the roughest water in the world occurs and just about all will say "The Drake". For centuries sailors have dreaded these waters with towering seas and relentless winds. Modern day tourists approach the crossing with apprehension or enthusiasm - a choice depending on how one handles seasickness perhaps? Fortunately I was not seasick.

Days at sea don't require wake up calls. Last days at sea on an expedition ship do require gathering up personal belongings from the mud room, starting to pack, and getting together with many new friends to share stories of the journey undertaken over the recent days, listen to more interesting lectures, view slide shows and videos etc. This evening we were also told to batten down the hatches and move everything to a low place in the cabin.

First day of the crossing was not too bad but around 3 AM everything started moving about our cabins. One of my wardrobe doors insisted on flying open, scattering clothing, shoes, cameras etc. around - I had to move everything to the partitions which latched properly. Fortunately I was in a queen size bed so rocking and rolling did not quite throw me to the floor, some people in twin beds did experience that! All night there were mysterious noises as things shifted and rolled and by morning, at our Captain's and expedition leader's requests, nobody was permitted to leave their cabins, told to stay in bed (that duvet was tucked around me tight!) which was the safest place. Somehow the amazing dining staff delivered a light breakfast, but no hot coffee!

The very rough seas made the ship a dangerous place and we were 'grounded'. Later a small lunch was also brought - and my cabin stewardess stopped by with a beaming smile on her face to check all was well. Other than a few bruises from being thrown against the bathroom walls, I fared well.

Finally we sailed into the lee of the infamous Cape Horn and got some respite from the hammering swells, and by mid-afternoon were allowed to move about again. At 5 PM we gathered in the lounge for the final voyage recap and slideshow, the fun crew musical performance, raffle, and champagne toast with our Captain.

Next morning, a very early wake-up call as we sailed into Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, after 20 days and 3,413 nautical miles on this awesome journey. Many farewells to crew and new friends, a quick drive past the colorful lupin-filled gardens and distant snow-capped mountains to the airport, and a flight to Buenos Aires to catch the flight back to the US.

If you ever have the chance to go on a trip to Antarctica, don't pass it up! It will be the experience of a lifetime. Was it the best place for two 'old gals' to celebrate 50 years of friendship? You bet it was. I'll always be so grateful to Paula for taking me there, it was magnificent!

I'll leave you with these words from the great Norwegian Polar explorer, Roald Amundsen..........

"Glittering white, shining blue, raven black, in the light of the sun the land looks like a fairy-tale. Pinnacle after pinnacle, peak after peak, crevassed, wild as any land on our globe, it lies, unseen and untrodden."


  1. It must have been like entering another world when you came back to "civilization" from Antarctica! Thanks for the pictorial journey!

  2. You certainly are a Devonian, this Staffordian likes her feet on terra-firma!
    Great post as usual :o)
    Have a wonderful weekend, hope all is well with you#.
    Rose H

  3. I have loved seeing your photos from your adventures in Antarctica - memories that will be with you forever.

  4. I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading about your trip. It is amazing to see this place. I love that you and Paula have a 50 year friendship. I also have a friend from kindergarten and we are still best friends...we are celebrating 50 year birthdays this year...with many more years of friendship to come.

  5. I can see it was a trip of a lifetime. How wonderful to share your 50 years of friendship doing something so amazing.

  6. What a wonderful adventure, dear! I love hearing all the stories about this trip. I will certainly be missing you when you leave again on another fantastic adventure. Thank you for your lovely comments earlier today. Much love, Vanessa

  7. Wow, Mary! That was quite an adventure! And then to end with lupine's, oh beautiful. The whole trip was beautiful and that one last penguin was just the best.

  8. What an experience, Mary! I have enjoyed your sharing, and hope that there will be other tales and photos. You and Paula are quite an intrepid pair!

  9. How fortunate you were that I wasn't with you as you sailed the Drake Passage! Sounds as though you had a really wonderful time in the Antarctic though - definitely a holiday to remember.

  10. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I have read avidly each post (I think) about your time on this expedition and have learned more and have seen more of Antarctica than ever before. It's a fascinating place and you made it all come alive for me with your posts. Thank you.


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