Surviving Drake-My Antarctica Odyssey

Monster Drake. Cruel Drake. And many more. All these infamous titles have been assigned to Drake Passage.

Named after Sir Francis Drake, the English navigator, Drake Passage is the violent stretch of ocean between South America and Antarctica. Also the connecting point between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  Frequented with huge waves and plagued by hurricanes, Drake Passage is the roughest open sea on earth. Countless explorers lost their lives sailing through perilous waters of Drake Passage.

The 21st century expedition ships have been technically advance to navigate safely in Drake waters. But crossing Drake Passage, that takes around 48 hours, still remains a challenge. And my ship Plancious, sturdy ice breaker, was in experienced hands of captain Alexey Nazarov, that was satisfying for me.

Sailing turbulent waters, is like a frightening dream which all on a voyage to Antarctica, wish to escape. Except few who like horror movies. They, perhaps, will be happy to live the horrific experience. Anyway, I will talk of me. Before I planned for my Antarctica trip, I delved in lot of study material on Drake Passage. Though I belong to the breed of fearless, but I do not like shocks, either.

I was told that ship would enter Drake waters approximately around midnight. All travelers were briefed about safety instructions while crossing Drake Passage. Most important one was to keep one hand for yourself and other hand to hold ship. Do not go on technical meaning of ‘hold ship’, that meant to hold grip on anything fixed in ship so that you don’t get hurt.

Almost all took precautionary sea sickness medication to survive rocking Drake experience on bowels. I truly prayed for a miracle to happen that I would experience calm Drake Lake instead of dreaded Drake Passage.

And miracle did happen. Not calm like a lake but near to that. I kept awake till midnight to feel the sensation. Looked on sea movement through window. All quiet. Gradually felt sleepy and soon was in sound sleep. Suddenly me felt like being fondled in a cradle. I took it as sweet dream until I was rocked hard. I got up and found everything shaking. At times ship got tossed like one small boat lurching in mighty ocean. I tried to get up but could not stand. Hold ship with one hand, I reminded myself and gripped my bedside support. Even going to washroom proved to be a hard task. Then I felt my stomach rolling. I again recalled physician’s advice to lay horizontally in bed. That worked wonder and I slept well in that position.

Rocking ship in Drake waters
Ship rocked in  stormy weather

Morning breakfast time. Staggering walk, a perfect break dance posture, in between being hurled from side to side, going up to dining hall was all fun. Thanks to the rocking effect, dining hall was nearly empty. Either people were sick or preferred to remain in bed. Even I was not feeling happy sitting. I realized that as long as I was in horizontal position I was fine, else I felt rolling tummy. I took fruits and preferred to go to bed. My roommate had sea sickness pills with her, offered me one dose to try on my queasy tummy and I popped with water.

Four educative lectures scheduled for the day but I missed two till afternoon as I kept sleeping. I skipped my lunch too, instead ate fruits.

In next forty hours lot happened. And then the reward…


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