"" Writer's Wanderings: Revisiting Antarctica - Ushuaia and the Drake Passage

Friday, April 27, 2012

Revisiting Antarctica - Ushuaia and the Drake Passage

All 500 of the passengers who were to board the Marco Polo in Ushuaia, Argentina, for the cruise to Antarctica boarded a chartered 747 in Buenos Aires. We speculated that either a timely booking or the luck of a draw snared us seats in first class in the upper section of the 747. Reclining seats with footrests that were as comfortable as the La-Z-Boy back home made our plane ride to Ushuaia very cozy indeed. Added to that was the special treat of a first-class lunch and we were half way to heaven.

Ushuaia turned out to be a small town resembling a frontier town like you might find in Alaska. On our return trip, we be able to explore more. We boarded the Marco Polo and began to get oriented to our home for the next eight days. As we sipped coffee on the open deck next to the empty pool, the sun broke through the clouds and warmed us enough to shed the light jackets we were wearing. How cold would it be on this cruise we wondered? While it was January, it was summer in this part of the world. Still, we'd seen pictures of snow covered decks on some previous cruises. But while we had the sun, we sat back and enjoyed.

The other question uppermost in our mind was how rough would the Drake Passage be? It was notoriously one of the worst weather areas in the world and reports of high seas and winds and the havoc wrecked on some ships make us a bit unsettled. Shortly after dinner, we were to know. The ship began to rock and roll and I'm not referring to the music on board. We medicated and went to bed.

Actually while we did not experience the "Drake Lake" as they refer to a calm day at sea, we did not have extreme weather. Our day at sea was spent listening to some of the naturalists tell us about the adventure we were embarking upon. On board were 18 experts in all sorts of areas that included history as well as flora, fauna, and ice formations. The ship which usually held a little over 800 passengers was only carrying 500 for this trip. The reason: labor intensive care as we visited the peninsula and restrictions on how many were allowed to actually set foot on Antarctica.

In the middle of the afternoon, we found red parkas on our bed. They would be protection against the elements as well as easy way to spot people on shore. It would be tough to get left behind by mistake. Anyone scanning the shore would certainly see a red jacket against the white snow.

The ship's roll became more familiar as the day wore on but of all things. . .that second night at sea was to be formal night. It would be a test of balance and fortitude.

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