- Smooth sailing south
Cruising of the Drake Passage is not always as rough as legend would have you believe. There are times when it can be a virtual lake. There is something mesmerizing about the pulse of the engines and the gentle dip and swell of the ocean. It’s like riding the back of a gentle giant and each pulse and roll takes you closer to the unknown lands below. One can spew the expletives of largest, coldest, driest, windiest….all immeasurable within the context of our everyday lives. Just one journey south will open your eyes and soul to the heart of this planet we call home.
But I get distracted….one of the most unique features on this cruise to the Antarctic is when the ship crosses that distinct zone from the warm waters of the Pacific or Atlantic and into the icy waters of the Antarctic. This is known as the Antarctic Convergence and it is immediately apparent with the dropping temperature, an abundance of sea birds and a deeper darker blue/green color to the ocean. Hydrologically speaking, it’s like reaching the tree line while hiking up a mountain. The waters drop in temperature as the cold waters sink below the warmer waters from the north. The ocean here is rich in nutrients that support an astounding variety of sea creatures above and below the surface.
Cruising from Ushuaia to the South Shetland Islands will take about 2.5 to 3 days depending on the speed of your ship and weather conditions. It takes a little longer if you are headed back from the Antarctic to Ushuaia as you are headed against the prevailing currents. During these days you will be barraged with insightful talks from the naturalists regarding everything from history, bird watching, whale watching, and of course how to be a socially responsible visitor to this pristine wilderness.
One of the most important meetings you will be required to attend is the IAATO guidelines and zodiac safety briefing. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators is a self-governing group of environmentally concerned operators who seek to protect the fragile environment of the areas you will visit during your cruise in Antarctic waters. Keep in mind that no one owns Antarctica…it is everyone’s responsibility to protect it’s natural state.
As you draw closer to these remote, isolated, stark and unknown lands your apprehension and excitement grows. Your “first glimpse” will make a lasting impression. What will it be?