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Drake Shake or Lake

You never know what you’re gonna get. The changing depths and the Antarctic Ocean are two of the factors determining lake vs shake.

Drake Passage Depth Profile

I was initially CRUSHED that we were going to be delayed in Puerto Williams for 24 hours due to storms in the Drake Passage. We weren’t allowed off the ship due to Chilean COVID quarantine requirements, but the ship’s Captains always err on the side of safety.

The ships do not post a defined itinerary because NOTHING is guaranteed about a trip to Antarctica. And in COVID times one person displaying symptoms could have impacted all of us. We finally pushed off and were on our way trying to sneak between two storm fronts.

Drake Lake

Drake Lake

I woke around 0200 and checked Google Maps on my phone for our GPS location. I had a minor panic attack when the GPS had us between Argentina and Falkland Islands. OMG after all the travel, and delays, something has happened and we had to divert. Luckily, it was only a GPS error (the first of many on the trip) and we were actually in the Drake Passage. I did learn how to calibrate my GPS and prevent future panicking.
Drake Lake 2

Without going into too much history or technical details, the Drake Passage is the most dangerous, treacherous, and scary bodies of water for ships to cross. In calm seas, referred to as the Drake Lake waves are 1-3m, which we managed to catch on our way sneaking across.

Birds of the Drake Passage

The Drake has tons of sea birds and whales to entertain you on the crossing. We saw lots of birds. The ship’s ornithologist (yes, there was a dedicated bird specialist onboard!) actually had sheets printed out of the possible sightings so we could mark the species we saw. We saw some whales too. It was too early in the spring season to see many, but every day we saw some humpback whales.
Birds of the Drake Passage

The birds look elegant gliding on the winds and dodging the waves, but didn’t want to stay still for photos. Grrr. We did get better at identifying the birds, eventually.

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Drake Shake

Drake Shake

On the way back, we weren’t so lucky and experienced the Drake Shake. Two+ days and nights of 5-9m (16-30ft) waves and 60-90 knots (111- 166kph 69-103mph) winds.
Drake Passage Wind Forecast
NOTE: Red bad. Green good.

Huge props/kudos to the staff for keeping us safe and fed. It was hard to walk, but they managed to walk, cook, clean, and more! I was fortunate not to get sick. Could have been the seasickness patch or acupressure wristbands or luck, but like the ship’s Captain, I erred on the side of safety.

That said, sleep quality and quantity with that much bouncing around is not good. On the first night crossing back, I woke around 0300 and got up to check the waves (it was already daylight). On my way back to my bed, I sat down just as a wave hit and was tossed backwards banging my head into the marble nightstand. (I had a sore bump on my head for a week.)
Drake Shake 2
If you don’t think this is rough seas, consider my cabin was on the 4th deck. Friends on deck 3 could not see out their windows at all.

Same day at breakfast, a shipmate’s oatmeal sloshed out of his bowl three times. TIP: Do not order oatmeal during the Drake Shake. TIP: Quick reflexes can save your coffee.

Later that same day, I happened to be sitting in a chair at lunch that was not hooked to the floor and got flung out to the floor. During all of this, not one of the waitstaff dropped a tray! Not one!

Day 2 of crossing back was actually rougher, but no “incidents” like Day 1. Maybe we were getting used to it.

CJ

I have visited 7 continents and 80 countries. I have lived in 9 different countries. I speak English, Spanish, French, and Russian. I like to hike, ski, dive, eat, drink, and wander the wonders of the world.

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