Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Off to Antarctica: Beagle Channel and Drake Passage - Feb 3 – 5

On Feb 3 I boarded the Polar Star for Antarctica. We set sail at about 5:30 pm and entered the Beagle Channel. The weather and the scenery were incredible. If this is a portent of things to come it will be fantastic!

One of the special things about this particular cruise was that we were scheduled to go below the Antarctic Circle. Most of the cruises are 1 or 2 days shorter and don’t have this opportunity. I figure, if you’re going to go… go all the way. OK, all the way would have been the South Pole, but that wasn’t an option. The Antarctic Circle was just fine with me!

On occasion we saw another ship in the channel. It was a beautiful night, and we just hoped that the rest of the voyage would be up to this level. (It was).

The Polar Star itself holds 100 passengers. This is a nice size, and is the maximum that are allowed to land at one time at most sites in Antarctica. On larger ships everyone doesn’t get to land at all sites, but we did.

Of course, the first day we had to do the lifeboat drill. They also asked for volunteers for the Man Overboard drill, but had no offers.

After leaving the Beagle Channel, we entered the Drake Passage. This is about 800 miles of open ocean, with no land masses to block the wind or waves, and where two oceans meet. It can be some of the worst seas in the world. We spent two full days crossing the Drake. Fortunately, we had reasonably good weather, and minimal seasickness. Yours truly had no problems (Thank you, Meclezine).

Time during these two days was filled with lectures on various aspects of Antarctica. They have a very well prepared expedition team of biologists, geologists, and all the other appropriate “ists” necessary. What we never did find out (and maybe that is best) is why the location shown on the board in this photo is called ¨Port Circumcision¨.

In any event, when we got there none of the male passengers chose to make this particular landing.

The ship also has an “open bridge” policy, and except when they are doing delicate maneuvers the passengers are free to spend time on the bridge. As this has the best view (and is warm) we spent much time there.

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