Sailing from Antarctica: The evening that we were to enter the Drake Passage on the return trip to Ushuaia,
we were told at our usual pre-dinner meeting and review that the ship’s doctor would be speaking with us.
He said that based on current weather reports, we would need to take seasick medication if we weren’t
already taking it, and that we needed to make certain that our cabins were “Drake-proofed“ —Antarctica
was telling us that the Drake was going to be showing us what it could do, starting around midnight. My
bravado about the crossing days earlier began to dissolve. We had been wearing the seasickness
prevention patches that our doctor in the US had prescribed, since the day we sailed from Ushuaia. Check!
Seasick meds done. We cleared off our bedside table and desktop and made certain that cabinet and
closet doors were closed. Check! Cabin “Drake-proofed”. We watched the huge waves beginning to roll
outside our portside cabin window—surely this was the worst we would get, right? The gentle movement of
the ship, which had lulled us to sleep every other night on board, progressed to more of a “Wow“ when we were
awakened to something hitting the floor with a crash— we had obviously thought that it was too heavy to
require stowing. Then our desk chair flew across our cabin. At first, I was rendered paralyzed with fear
and apprehension. The first thing that came to my mind was that I wasn’t sure that I remembered the
signal for “abandon ship”!
Hours later, as we felt our mattresses slide out of the bedframe towards
the centre of the cabin and then felt them slide back, we looked at each other and started laughing. It was
simultaneously frightening and absolutely wonderfully exciting at the same time! All of that worry and dread
about what we’d do and here we were doing it: laughing and having one of the most amazing times of
our lives! The Drake was showing us what “Drake Shake” meant! For over 30 hours we carried on daily
life with modifications—when one of us needed to stand up and make it to our bathroom or to the dining
room, the other timed the rolling pitch of the ship and said “Now”, so that the movement propelled us in the
right direction! We watched out our third-level cabin window as giant waves covered the windows periodically,
as if we were submerged. Later, we were told that some of the waves were estimated to have
reached 30 feet! Antarctica was having the last word. I thought of a few people that we had met on
board who were travelling without their friends, spouses, partners, etc., because they had decided that the
thought of a possibly rough Drake crossing made them too apprehensive to make the trip. If this is you—
don’t miss this incredible adventure. The Drake Passage holds the keys to getting to Antarctica. And, we
have heard from others who have made the trip that there is always the possibility that you’ll have a “Drake
Lake”—smooth crossings both ways. As difficult as it is to believe that I’m saying this: we’re so glad that we
didn’t have smooth crossings both ways! Somehow, we would have felt cheated! Now we have stories to
tell and memories of the most incredibly rough and exciting 30 hours of our lives. Amazingly, we survived,
and better yet, we survived it laughing!