Crossing the Drake Passage is the famed or infamous crossing that many find as a rite of passage on a voyage like this. The notorious waterway is prone to some of the most severe and predictably unpredictable weather conditions in the world. The passage is a narrow stretch of water between the Southern Tip of South America and the Northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Oceans converging and water temperatures colliding can create incredibly choppy seas, especially when paired with stormy wind and weather conditions. However, the Drake is not always a terrible experience.
After hearing all the stories of Drake Shake versus Drake Lake, I spared no expense investing in anti-motion sickness patches, pills and ginger tabs to settle my stomach. However on my particular trip the Hebridean Sky entered the Drake in one of the instances referred to as “Drake Lake.” Our crossing Southbound was, according to our expedition team, incredibly smooth and mellow. At its highest, we experienced about a meter or two swell and our ship was able to power through at 12 knots quite steadily as we charged south, racing to get to the Polar Circle before the melted sea ice started to reform for the season.
Despite the calm seas, many passengers were still feeling the effects of seasickness as our bodies adjusted to the gentle rocking of the ocean beneath our feet. Quite a few passengers did not venture out of their cabin for two days and chose to sleep away the motion sickness. Having come overly prepared and already having a fairly strong constitution for seasickness, I spent these two days on the Promenade deck looking for albatross, whales and other marine life while attending as many lectures as the expedition team would offer - covering polar history, explorers of old, marine mammals, bird species and citizen science programs on board. The days passed quickly even though the scenery outside never really changed. Open water as far as the eye can see, with no land, iceberg or structures to interrupt its flow. After two days of smooth sailing, we woke on Day 3 to the view of our very first Antarctic icebergs on the horizon, the journey was all worth the wait!
Our return trip on the Drake turned out to be not quite as serene with eight meter (close to 30 ft!) swells crashing over the bridge deck. We were not allowed to go outside on the promenade or observation decks and were all relearning how to walk in the ship trying to predict the rocking and swaying motions while holding on with both hands. Our captain kept us between two storm systems that were rolling through the passage in order to “minimize the swell” we were feeling. Eating dinners became challenging as the plate dodged your fork to the left and right but tables and chairs, drawers and beds were all fastened into place. All we could do was hope our medications kept us comfortable and enjoy the ride as we made our way slowly back into the calm waters of the Beagle Channel.