Day 3 – Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake

At sea on the Drake Passage, bound for Antarctica. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
At sea on the Drake Passage, bound for Antarctica. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It was a wild night here onboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM, but the purpose-built expedition ship handled it well. Despite Beaufort Force 9 winds and some monstrous seas pounding down upon us throughout the night, the only sounds that could be heard in my stateroom forward on Deck 5 were those of my toiletries clanking around in the cupboards.

Not surprising given the extremely high winds outside last night and this morning! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Not surprising given the extremely high winds outside last night and this morning! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

In fact, upon hearing the weather forecast last evening, I secured anything that might slide around, from camera equipment to battery chargers. My laptop has rubberized pads, so it could stay seated on the desk in the room without it going anywhere. But preparation is key; you don’t want to have things break when they go bump in the night.

Simply moving around the ship proved to be difficult this morning. This was taken on Deck 4, looking aft toward the Dining Room. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Simply moving around the ship proved to be difficult this morning. This was taken on Deck 4, looking aft toward the Dining Room. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Since the forecast was…unpleasant, I elected to put on Seabands – little wrist bands with a pressure point that have helped with seasickness in the past. They worked. With the exception of trying to move about the ship and in the room at night and during the early morning, I really haven’t felt uncomfortable at all. Crashing around in the ship’s corridors – now that’s another story. But, as the old saying goes, keep “one hand for your drink, one hand for the ship.”

The FRAM is, however, a gorgeous ship - even in rough weather. This is the Deck 7 landing of the main staircase. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The FRAM is, however, a gorgeous ship – even in rough weather. This is the Deck 7 landing of the main staircase. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Not everyone is in the same boat, so to speak: so common are rough seas in this region that every stateroom, corridor and elevator lobby is outfitted with the dreaded “white bags.” And without going into detail, they’ve been well used. But – this is the Drake Passage. I came into this cruise, as did most people I’ve spoken to, with the knowledge that the first two days could be a little touch-and-go weather-wise.

Unfortunately for those who don’t have their sea legs just yet, there’s a lot of housekeeping duties going on today for the Expedition Staff here onboard the FRAM – and they all involve guests.

Preparing for Antarctica: guests were all issued with their bright-blue (and complimentary) jackets this morning. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Preparing for Antarctica: guests were all issued with their bright-blue (and complimentary) jackets this morning. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Today at 09:00, guests could proceed to Deck 2 when their Zodiac Group was called over the public address system to be outfitted with their bright-blue Expedition Jackets. Emblazoned with the Hurtigruten branding, these jackets are very cool – and not nearly as big and bulky as you might expect. But they are a good windbreaker, so just be sure to bring some warm layers to place underneath them.

Immediately following the jacket handout was an information lecture on the optional post-cruise tours guests could participate in back in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, as well as the Voyage Adventures that can be booked onboard.

They are:

  • Cruising in Antarctica’s Lemaire Channel. Max 24 people; 750 NOK pp.
  • Max 10/12 people. Swimmers Only. 995 NOK pp.
  • “An Amundsen Night” – tenting in Antarctica. Max 18 people. 3250 NOK pp.
  • Deception Island Hike. Very difficult. Max 100 people. 250 NOK pp.
  • Geology Cruise Deception Island. Max 24 people. 750 NOK pp.
We were also called down to the "Muck Room" to be fitted with rubber boots - mandatory for landings in Antarctica. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
We were also called down to the “Muck Room” to be fitted with rubber boots – mandatory for landings in Antarctica. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Guests can fill out their requests on a form provided near the Expedition Desk on Deck 4. Because these excursions ashore are so popular, a lottery system has to be employed in order to accommodate the restricted numbers of guests these tours can carry. They also look to be quite popular; already, a small queue has built at reception filled with people either booking or enquiring about them.

This afternoon, we were called (again by Zodiac Group numbers) down to Deck 2 to be outfitted with rubber boots. Rubber boots are mandatory for all landings ashore, and Hurtigruten offers the possibility to rent them from onboard the FRAM at a cost of 120 NOK for the duration of the voyage.

Sadly, all guests were not fitted with a complimentary bottle of the MS Fram's own Scotch - but you can buy it onboard! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Sadly, all guests were not fitted with a complimentary bottle of the MS Fram’s own Scotch – but you can buy it onboard! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Since boots are mandatory – and since this isn’t exactly an inexpensive voyage – I do find it a bit odd that the rubber boots carry an additional charge. But, it is a minimal one, and the boots are extremely high-quality. My advice? Don’t bother bringing your own boots – very few guests on my sailing did, and the few that I have seen will be completely unsuitable if we have to make a wet landing somewhere. The boots Hurtigruten has onboard nearly come up to my knees, so I’ll be warm and dry regardless of the landing location!

Someone once described a book as the only lover you can keep up on a shelf, and the FRAM has no shortages of these onboard, in the small but well-stocked library just off the starboard side of the Observation Lounge.

Cafe onboard the FRAM, Deck 4. Here, you can get coffee and tea along with some sweets around the clock. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Cafe onboard the FRAM, Deck 4. Here, you can get coffee and tea along with some sweets around the clock. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There's even a faux fireplace on Deck 4 just off the Reception Lobby that's quite cozy. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There’s even a faux fireplace on Deck 4 just off the Reception Lobby that’s quite cozy. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
FRAM's Gift Shop contains nearly everything you might want or need. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
FRAM’s Gift Shop contains nearly everything you might want or need. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
You also might need this. But fear not - they're everywhere, even in your staterooms. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
You also might need this. But fear not – they’re everywhere, even in your staterooms. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Deck 4 corridor between the main staircase and the Dining Room features some attractive seating options. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Deck 4 corridor between the main staircase and the Dining Room features some attractive seating options. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Staircases reflect Greenlandic art and materials. Originally, FRAM was intended to mainly sail on Arctic voyages around this frozen land. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Staircases reflect Greenlandic art and materials. Originally, FRAM was intended to mainly sail on Arctic voyages around this frozen land. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There's also fabulous Norwegian and Scandinavian artwork onboard at every turn. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There’s also fabulous Norwegian and Scandinavian artwork onboard at every turn. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Books in the Library on the starboard side of the Observation Lounge, Deck 7. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Books in the Library on the starboard side of the Observation Lounge, Deck 7. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from Deck 7 aft this afternoon, once the winds had calmed down. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from Deck 7 aft this afternoon, once the winds had calmed down. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Of course, even here on the open ocean, it’s hard to pull myself away from the beautiful windows of the Observation Lounge. I keep looking at the digital map on the television in my stateroom, but I still can’t seem to quite reconcile the fact that we are sailing so far south – the furthest south I have ever ventured in my life, and further than many people will get in their lifetimes.

This, too, feels like what FRAM was made to do. Hurtigruten has long been a leader in Arctic exploration, and they’ve carved up a nice reputation over the last decade here in Antarctica. I absolutely loved my journey with them two years ago aboard Midnatsol, and FRAM is living up to the high standards set onboard that voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway.

As we sail on, I can feel the excitement building within me. It feels like I’m about to see some long-lost love; the anticipation of seeing Antarctica overwhelms me. What do the next few days hold? No one, of course, knows. To attempt to predict the future is futile. So we’ll go along, carried by the good ship FRAM as she literally plows her way through the Drake Passage at 16 knots, destined for one of the last true adventures of exploration and discovery remaining in this world.

Artifacts from the former FRAM (utilised by Roald Amundsen) are on display on Deck 4. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Artifacts from the former FRAM (utilised by Roald Amundsen) are on display on Deck 4. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our full journey:

Hurtigruten's FRAM, Antarctica

DATEPORT
January 15, 2015Buenos Aires, Argentina
January 16Buenos Aires - Ushuaia, Argentina
January 17Crossing the Drake Passage
January 18Crossing the Drake Passage
January 19Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 20Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 21Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 22Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 23Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 24Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 25Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula
January 26Crossing the Drake Passage
January 27Crossing the Drake Passage
January 28Ushuaia - Buenos Aires
January 29, 2015Buenos Aires, Argentina
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