Antarctica Part 6: Crossing the Drake, Life Onboard

Where’s the berg!?!  ~Not said by Clara

24 January…Cruising Day 2..first full sea day

Life onboard followed a certain routine once the Drake was traversed: Breakfast, zodiac cruising or shore excursion, lunch, another round of zodiac or shore, maybe a presentation, cocktail hour, daily debrief, dinner, evening activity of a lecture or movie or some partyish type of activity.   Me, I was either tired and sacked out in the cabin or out on deck taking in the scenery, looking to spot wildlife, or working on my action photography. There was never a lack of something to do.

Typical at-sea activity schedule.

One of the places to hang out was The Bridge. As with a lot of the smaller expedition-style cruise ships, the bridge is open 24-hours for access by the passengers. The only time access is restricted is during port procedures or a particularly hair-raising navigational issue.

Open-access bridge | Quark Ocean Endeavour

There was always a crew member on the lookout for rogue ice (as no one wants a repeat of that ‘T’ experience) and for marine life. As we cruised along, it was not uncommon for an announcement to be made: “Minke/Orca/Humpback whales located on the ______ side.” For a diehard group of us, we always had camera and hat/jacket with us even during meals and would drop fork and run out on deck at an announcement. Depending on the situation, the boat would slow or even turn around to give us a better watching opportunity.PNTX2037

Two you-must-do-this events took place. As with every cruise, a safety drill is performed. This cruise was no different. It was a little less formal than most but pertinent info was disseminated, everyone seemed to pay attention, the crew was happy.

The other event was specific to cruising the Antarctic and going ashore. We had an IAATO briefing on Sea Day 2.  IAATO, a governing body that oversees visitors to the continent has as one of its recommendations/strong requirements…Protect Antarctic Wildlife…among others.  This means no cross contamination of plant/bug life onto the shores. Even shore to shore…but that’s for a later discussion. So anything that we were going to take ashore….backpack, jackets, anything that wasn’t freshly laundered for the trip had to be inspected and vacuumed for debris. The rules are taken very seriously….we even had to sign an acknowledgment.  I guess this is a good time to mention that if a person needed to go to the loo while on shore…it was back on the zodiac for a trip to the boat. No dropping trou while on shore….which was a little difficult when dressed like the Michelin Man. So if you weren’t good for at least two hours…or have a teeny tiny bladder…you would need to find something to ‘depend’ on or waste time heading back to the boat.   Leaving no human foot-print or otherwise is taken very seriously.

A couple of organizational happenings took place on this second sea-day, meetings for the kayakers and the stand-up paddle boarders. These two activities were available but for an additional fee. Once a person committed for the activity, that slot remained theirs for the duration. No trading out, no rotations. So if there was any thought that you were not up for the activity, you needed to think twice about taking a slot because there was a waitlist for participants and there was no second round of orientation to sub a newcomer if you were to bug-out.  Once we hit appropriate water, conditions were evaluated and if good, in went the equipment.


Debriefs were often conducted by our fearless expedition leader Cheli Larsen of New Zealand. She was positively terrific. I could go on and on but suffice it to say, I would cruise again with her in a heartbeat. As leader…because the buck stops with her, she had the happy or tough job informing us if we would make a certain landing, etc…or not. Well, right off the bat during the crossing (I think it was actually the 2nd sea day) she announced that due to wind, waves, solar flares, a butterfly flapping its wings in Madagascar spreading the scent of vanilla, whatever….and after having stayed up all-night reworking the logistics, we wouldn’t be doing our regularly scheduled programming of stopping first at the top of the peninsula.  *HUGE groan from the passengers*  We were heading straight down to the Circle instead! Wheee!!! Flexibility is the word of the day.

WP_20160123_061 (2)
Cheli Larsen, Expedition Leader Extraordinaire | New Zealand

So this is what our newly revised and always a work-in-progress chart looked like:

Scotia Sea map_Crossing the Circle_23 Jan_04 Feb

image description
Peninsula site-specific stops.

In addition to a few lectures that took place, there was a lot of this:PNTX2044

…looking at various species of this…and for those creatures that start with the letter W:

Albatross, one of four species spotted this day.

Our wildlife-spotted list indicated that one species of dolphin was seen but nothing else other than birds of a feather. No whales, no bergs. Just water and birds.

So…where are the bergs!?!

~~Oops! I forgot to tag my Antarctica Part 5: Ushuaia so if you’ve been informally following my trip reports, you may want to backtrack to catchup on this one.  Thanks!


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