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Crossing the Drake Passage

Saturday, 23 December 2017


View 2017 Antarctica on greynomadm's travel map.

A full day of lectures and briefings. Breakfast at 08:00; talks starting at 09:30 as we buck our way across the Drake Passage. The weather has been overcast and the ship's reactions to the sea conditions had me dozing off to sleep. Meals are well presented and offer a good range of choices.
There is not much point venturing outside with the temperature down to 0 °C, a strong wind and the ship's movement somewhat unpredictable.
Looking around our fellow passengers there are only a few that are as old as us, most are from young to middle-aged. At dinner there were two who turned sixty. The age distribution on this trip is different to what we tend to find on our Princess Cruises.

It is announced that the ship has made good time and that we should reach the South Shetland islands early tomorrow. The ship continues to roll gently as we drop off to sleep.

The Drake Passage has a reputation for the most violent seas in the Southern Ocean. The 800-kilometre (500 mi) wide passage between Cape Horn and Livingston Island is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to any other landmass. The boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is sometimes taken to be a line drawn from Cape Horn to Snow Island (130 kilometres (81 mi) north of mainland Antarctica). Alternatively, the meridian that passes through Cape Horn may be taken as the boundary. Both boundaries lie entirely within the Drake Passage.

The other two passages around the extreme southern part of South America (though not going around Cape Horn as such), Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel, are very narrow, leaving little room for a ship. They can also become icebound, and sometimes the wind blows so strongly no sailing vessel can make headway against it. Hence most sailing ships preferred the Drake Passage, which is open water for hundreds of miles, despite very rough conditions. The small Diego Ramírez Islands lie about 100 kilometres (62 mi) south-southwest of Cape Horn.

There is no significant land anywhere around the world at the latitudes of 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 River) through the Passage and around Antarctica.

Ships in the Passage are often good platforms for the sighting of whales, dolphins and seabirds including giant petrels, other petrels, albatrosses and penguins. We didn't see much in the way of wildlife during the crossing.

Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:30 Archived in Antarctica

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