Antarcticaâ€™s Rite of PassageAdventure Travel, Antarctica, Cruise, Extras, Lost Girls — By Holly C on May 5, 2008 at 2:43 am
The continent’s remote location isn’t the only challenge to setting foot on Antarctica-it’s also protected by the 500-mile wide Drake Passage carrying the world’s most turbulent waters. But ignorance was definitely bliss for all Antarctica virgins on board as our group of about fifty passengers set sail from Ushuaia on the Akademik Shokalskiy.
It ain’t a Carnival Cruise: The research vessel’s ice-strengthened hull can navigate between floating bergs and fit into nooks and crannies that larger cruise ships can’t. The vessel is more cozy than luxurious, with a bar/lounge, small library, dining room, lecture hall, and enclosed bridge for viewing whales, albatross, and penguins.
Before the seas got too choppy, a mandatory lifeboat drill preceded a champagne toast with the ship’s captain that provided a little liquid courage for finding those sea legs. The expedition leader also announced a schedule for lectures covering everything from global warming research stations to whale strandings to the politics of Antarctica. With no access to television, Google, or phones, the only options for passing the time at sea were hitting up meals, lectures and the bar.
Mother Nature was pretty calm the first night, until we crossed into the Drake Passage the following morning. High wind and waves reaching over 30 feet tossed the ship around like a washing machine.
Simply making it to lectures became an exercise in balance and mealtime turned chaotic as diners practically fell out of their chairs and dishes slid back and forth along the tables as though on a conveyer belt. Hint: After a few shots of Russian vodka, it’s hard to tell if it’s seasickness or alcohol that’s making your head spin. Most passengers lost their appetites and the ship’s doctor dispensed seasickness pills like candy. But hey, the Drake is a rite of passage: If we weren’t looking for a really big adventure, we could have just gone to Sea World.
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