“So on the deep and open sea I set forth, with a single ship and that small band of comrades that
had never left me yet.” Dante
The Drake Shake or the Drake Lake is how many who have made the 2 ½ day journey down and 2 days back from Antarctica have describe the sailing through this passage. The Drake Passage (even today) feared by sailors is known throughout history as one of the most treacherous and dangerous bodies of water in the world. How would it treat us? It was an ominous sign of things to come when we boarded the ship (Ocean Nova) in the howling wind and freezing rain. As the Ocean Nova pulled away from the pier I stood out on the observation deck watching the storm come in. Not knowing what to expect, but knowing that I was about to sail across one of most treacherous bodies of water in the world (The Drake Passage), I was not surprised when a few hours later, the Captain and Expedition Leader said we were in for a very rough trip. We were going to get the Drake Shake. The five hours of semi-calm sail through the Beagle Channel only added to the tension of the storm which lay ahead. By the time the captain announced that we were clearing the channel and heading out into the open sea many people where already down for the count. As soon as we sailed into the open sea, Poseidon arose from the depths and leveled his trident at us and unleashed his tempest. Our little 200 ft ship was being tossed around like a rubber ducky in a kiddy pool.The winds were blowing up to 77 mph (hurricane force) and the waves were 15 to 20 feet. To add to our beating, we were not only going up and down,but side to side, and sometimes it felt that we were doing both at the same time. This storm took out almost everyone else who wasn’t already sick by this time. I am blessed by having never known the pain or agony of what it is like to get seasick, but by looking at my two roommates, I felt very bad for them. During this trip I stayed in a three-person cabin with two other males, one from Brazil and the other from Hong Kong. These poor guys spent the entire 2 ½ day journey in bed. That first night everyone understood why the barf-bags were in the passage ways. During the storm, not wanting to hang out in my cabin (for good reason), I hung out on the 5th deck inside observation lounge drinking tea and hot chocolate, talking with the very few remaining passengers while watching the ship get pummeled by the storm. When I went to bed I slept like a baby in a rocking crib and the next morning there were not that many people at breakfast. My time during the crossing was spent watching the ship take a beating by the storm, drinking tea and chocolate, eating very good food, looking for whales and birds, and listening to lectures. The lectures were given by the expedition staff and I learned all about Antarctica, its history, the wildlife, the geology, the snow and ice (it amazed me to learn how much there is to know about snow and ice and how complex it is), and the expedition staff. Also because of my medical experience the ships doctor asked myself and another passenger (an ER nurse from Australia) if we would become a part of the medic team should an emergency occur and to help out during a medical emergency and I agreed. Thankfully the only time I was called into action was as part of a training drill for a medical emergency – though one passenger did break his arm when he fell down the stairs during the stormy return voyage.