After showing us penguins aplenty in the Falkland Islands — Chick Power, Cute & Woolly, A New Breed Of Penguin? & Perfectly Paired Penguins — Seabourn Quest set a course across the Drake Passage. Our destination: the South Shetland Islands, a group of islands situated about 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula.
To get there, we would need to transit nearly 600 miles of open ocean, across a body of water that has a nasty reputation for not always playing nice. I’ve heard stories of swells raging up to 90 feet, but those are extremely rare, and you can bet that expedition vessels will not be crossing in such seas. Still, the Drake Passage can make for a rocky passage, but not always.
“The thing with the Drake Passage and the misconception is that people think it is rough all of the time, and that’s not entirely true,” Seabourn Quest Expedition Team Leader Robin West told me. “The problem is that when it gets rough, it can get really rough.”
The cruise ships and expedition vessels do have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to forecasting their crossings. Read how they get help from a few web sites in No Need For TrepiDRAKEtion: On Seabourn Quest, Smooth Seas Across The Drake, Plus, Our First Iceberg Sighting
I’ve crossed the Drake Passage four times now, and I can say without hesitation that even if swells up to 90 feet were in the forecast, I’d still go. That is the power and appeal of the White Continent. As West told me, even after having crossed rough seas, “Once you’re in Antarctica, you forget all about the crossing.”