The Drake Shake

The journey commences….

After an amazing 8 days onboard the Ocean Endeavour, it was time to start the long journey back from Antarctica to Ushuaia, Argentina. At our briefing the previous night the weather forecast had definitely been uninspiring to say the least. The wind forecast had all kinds of purple (which is bad) and there were mentions of a 3,000km storm front that we were going not going to be able to avoid. Everyone was warned to take seasickness medication if you were prone to not feeling well. I don’t get overly seasick but was still not looking forward to the feared ‘Drake Shake’.

As we’d completed our expeditions by late afternoon on the 8th of March, we had already turned around and were heading North by the time we were eating dinner.

The ship had started moving around significantly by around 10pm. I’d slept OK, but had noticed the swell building overnight.

At breakfast Di reported being tossed out of bed overnight with the ship rolling around. I was feeling fine, despite the swell already being much more significant that the trip through the Drake on the way down to Antarctica. The trip down we had a little bit of movement but it was definitely more ‘Drake Lake’ than ‘Drake Shake’.

Our first full seaday was the 9th of March and we were expecting to be travelling through the Drake Passage the 9th and 10th, and entering the Beagle Channel for an early docking in Ushuaia on the 11th of March.

My plan to catch up on some resting during trip back wasn’t off to a great start as the photography group had to have our photos ready from our group presentation, later that day. So it was off to sort through thousands of photos and do some editing. Meanwhile Di, tried to stay awake (the seasickness tablets tended to make her drowsy) and listen to some of the talks.

The forecast had the swell building up by lunchtime. In breaks from editing, I took some walks out on deck to check out the swell and we were back in the Drake, with nothing to see forever, other than the odd seabird.

There weren’t a lot of people out on deck, most were hanging out in the presentations or locked in rooms not feeling all that well. In my 9 days aboard the Ocean Endeavour, I had not yet managed to get up to the Bridge. My 9 year old son would definitely have wanted me to check out the Bridge for him, so I decided I’d better pay a visit before it got too rough and they closed it.

The ship generally had an open Bridge and they were happy for photos, as long as you asked. The view up there was spectacular, and there were already a few waves making it up close to the top decks.

About half an hour after I’d visited the Bridge was indeed closed to visitors due to the conditions, and it didn’t reopen until we were back in the Beagle Channel, 2 days later.

There were plenty of waves making it up to the 5th and 6th floors, I had been out taking a few photos and videos but it was becoming more challenging, there was water everywhere and a lot of rocking and rolling….

Lunch had been an interesting experience. We had to hold onto our food a little more than usual, but the waitstaff did a fabulous job. It turns out this was nothing compared to a later meals!

The rest of my afternoon was spent with the photography group up in the Meridian lounge trying to edit and get our slideshow together. We were up on the 8th floor and waves were definitely coming over the 6th floor windows. It was rather rocky up the top, and editing photos on laptops with no tables was rather challenging!

In the lounge on the deck below there was a wedding, and much champagne. Most of the photography group didn’t make it down as we were busy getting our photos done, but we all managed to submit our photos for the slideshow. Homework done by 3.30pm, it was off for more food and finally some relaxing….

When not feeling sick…

Luckily I wasn’t feeling the least bit unwell (so far), so spent most of my 2 sea days enjoying the food. Our photography lectures had often clashed with afternoon tea, but today it was eating and hanging out with new friends in the lounges, reliving some of the highlights of the past week and a bit.

Di was feeling OK, and had been hanging out in the lounges most of the day, watching the swell. They had now closed the outer decks so we were all confined to watching the giant waves from the lounge windows.

At our nightly briefing we all anticipated the updated weather forecast. After a day of rocking and rolling, we were hoping for good news. The forecast indeed had it improving for a few hours….. before worsening again overnight.

The photography group did get to present our slideshow of images for the trip, and an amazing collection it was!

It was off to dinner and Di and I sat with Anna and Martin. It was an interesting dinner, as we rocked and rolled. Plates were were sliding and it was a little difficult to eat. The waves were now flying up past the 8th floor windows, spectacular but a little unnerving.

We did have a great time reliving all our highlights since we first met back at the hotel in Ushuaia and embarked on a hike up the Martial Glacier. I can’t say I was feeling overly hungry and restricted myself to only 1 drink with dinner. Di had a couple of wines with dinner and lived to regret it later!

As the weather briefly improved the outer decks had reopened I popped out to watch the sun set over the Drake.

Di was feeling unwell from all the rocking and rolling so headed off to bed early, hoping to sleep through the worst of it! I called it a night around 9pm and wasn’t feeling particularly sick, but I did decide there was no way I was staying upright in the shower with the amount of tossing of the ship so headed straight to bed. The constant David Attenborough replays lulled me to sleep as he calmly talked through the more scenic parts of a non-moving Antarctica.

When the shakes got real….

I slept really well once I’d laid down. I had constant dreams about being on rollercoasters or flying in space, and woke several times to what I thought was the ship cracking in half with the banging of the hull over giant waves.

I didn’t wake up until after 7am, the first day I hadn’t been out on deck taking sunrise photos. Di had apparently had several times she’d been tossed out of bed and was not feeling very well, despite plenty of seasickness drugs. I dragged her down for tea and toast. I managed a full breakfast and was feeling remarkably good, despite it being difficult to walk around the ship and several people had been injured from falls while the ship was lurching around. The breakfast crowd was thinner, and we heard the ship doctors had been busy with many people needing treatment for seasickness.

The weather was decidedly miserable. Giant seas and not much to look at. It was, however, entertaining watching the giant waves and trying to predict when the next one was going to come flying over a deck.

I spent the morning attending some of the talks about life in the ocean and climate change. Again, about half the ship were locked in their rooms feeling unwell. Luckily most of the briefings and talks are streamed to your room, so it was easy to not leave if you didn’t feel up to it!

Di had retreated to her room, feeling very unwell. She made it out for the disembarkation briefing where we learnt the unfortunate weather, and a headwind meant we were very delayed arriving into Ushuaia and my planned morning of further sightseeing and souvenir shopping was not going to happen. Many people were going to miss their flights. So far, ours was looking OK but we were likely going to have to go straight the the airport rather than into town. Worse, was the thought of another 24 hours locked on the ship, rolling around like we were on a theme park ride.

Lunch was another amusing affair. As we watched the giant waves out the windows, glasses and plates were smashing and all the chairs were bolted down . We spent most of the meal catching our plates sliding off the tables, and it was impossible to walk to the buffet. Probably a good way to start the post-cruise diet!

We were definitely getting the full ‘Drake Shake’ experience. I had commented to the crew that they were probably used to this. Most said it was the worst or close to the worst they had experienced. A crossing earlier in the season had apparently been pretty horrendous, and resulted in parts of the ship being flooded. Not news I enjoyed hearing, given many of the crew had done trips spanning many years.

I did try to get some photos and videos showing just how much the ship was moving around. It really was hard to capture. It was impossible to walk around at times and you just felt like you were stuck on a never ending rollercoaster. I actually didn’t feel nauseous (as long as I didn’t get hungry) but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience to subject yourself to for more than 48 hours straight.

It was all definitely worth it though. No amount of Drake Shake was going to diminish the wonder of all the places we’d visit. Each totally different and just as beautiful. Here were our final maps of our ships position every day. We’d visited 8 amazing sites on the Antarctic Peninsula……

The last evening was different….

On the evening of the 10th of March, we had our final briefing and daily recap. Everyone was mostly interested in the weather report….. it wasn’t getting better for awhile, well at least until we hit the Beagle Channel.

We had a farewell from the crew and the Captain only made it out for about 2 minutes as he was keeping the ship upright in the swell. Di hadn’t even made it out of her room, so missed the final slideshow from the ships photographer, which again was amazing. So many awesome photos from our 10 days…..

The final dinner was indeed a corker. With Di in her room, feeling very unwell, there were only about a quarter of the ship’s passengers in the dining room. I decided to join Andrew, Trish and Richard for dinner, and while none of us were feeling sick, we were all very sick of the constant rolling and lurching. The final dinner had an excellent menu, but we didn’t really get to enjoy it. I’ve never seen so many plates and glasses end up on the floor. The dining room would tilt from one side to another and we spent the entire meal with our cutlery in our laps and holding everything else with one hand, while trying to eat with the other.

The poor staff spent most of the meal picking up food and broken glasses from the floor. Passenger were constantly picking up other passengers from the floor, as several guests landed on the floor. Our chairs were bolted down but I still managed to tip more than once, an all around unpleasant experience. Unfortunately no photos or videos as we were all concentrating on getting out unharmed!

The crew did an amazing job trying to get food out and clean up the mess, but it was not a fun dinner, memorable for sure though.

After dinner, a few of us hung out in the lounge continuing to compile videos of people walking sideways, or being penguins. You get locked together on a ship, lurching around and we all started to find strange things amusing….

The final night was amusing. Most of us had given up any hope of packing. Everything in the rooms needed to be locked down. Luckily my cabin boy knew I had a lot of camera gear and had been going into my room during the trip back making sure my laptop and cameras were secure. I’d long since given up on trying to keep the phone on the desk or any water bottles or tissue boxes on the dresser. Everything was stowed behind pillows and jammed into bags on the floor.

After making sure Di was still alive and not in need of anything, it was off to bed. She was definitely not coming out of her room but didn’t think she was quite at the stage she needed the ship doctor.

Unfortunately, down in my cabin, the ship was rolling from my head to my foot end of the bed so I’d slide right down and out one way, and then back and into the bed head, making for a most amusing nights sleep. I was very grateful I didn’t feel at all sick, it was just getting rather annoying, and it was definitely time to be off the ship and onto the next adventure.

Finally, calmer seas!

I think everyone on the ship felt it when we hit the Beagle Channel and the ship stopped being tossed around. The last few hours of the night were a lot easier to sleep and at breakfast, pretty much everyone emerged from their rooms. Di was definitely much happier and finally up for some food!

After breakfast it was time for some rapid packing, it had been impossible during the Drake-Shake. We were then officially tossed out of our rooms while they were cleaned and ready for the next intake of passengers. This meant everyone was hanging around in the lounges all morning, but there was plenty of champagne and we had time for the final catch-ups with new friends.

After spending a lot of time together over the past 11 days, and sharing many adventures out on the zodiacs and on the ice, and many meals there were plenty of friends to say goodbye to and exchange details with.

Back in the Beagle Channel….

The blessedly calm waters of the Beagle Channel had been a welcome relief overnight. It was a beautiful morning out on deck. As we sailed through the channel we had otters porpoising near the ship and the beautiful snow-capped mountains to look at.

It was a little odd seeing mountains not entirely covered in snow or ice, for the first time in many days!

We were finally approaching Ushuaia by around 10.30am, many hours behind schedule, but at least in time to make our flight. Ushuaia was looking pretty on a clear day, and we could again see all the way up to the top of the Martial Glacier, which I’d hiked with Anna and Martin before we set sail for Antarctica.

Those with early flights were off first and loaded onto buses and off the airport. We’d originally planned a morning of a sightseeing around the town, some museums and plenty of souvenir shopping. It was now well past 11am so we had to go straight to the airport. I wasn’t sure the kids were going to be impressed with my lack of souvenirs!

Shop and run….

The airport in Ushuaia is a very short drive from the city area. Our flight all had to be transported to the airport, direct from the ship, due to the delayed docking. Given we had a couple of hours before our flight, and still 30 minutes before bag check in opened, I left Di with the bags and made a quick return trip by taxi into the town to grab some souvenirs for the family back home. My new friend from the ship, Karolina, is a travel agent in Ushuaia and had given me the heads up on exactly which stores were the best for different souvenirs. So within 20 minutes I had souvenirs purchased, and was back in a cab for the 10 minute ride to the airport.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I would have loved to spend more time exploring Ushuaia, but we were bound for Santiago, Chile instead….

Farewell Ushuaia

I was back with Di two hours before our flight and it was off to check in the bags. We again had an issue with the visas for Chile (we were transiting through Buenos Aires to Santiago). After almost getting deported on the way in, I was not looking forward to dealing with Chile immigration again. Our check in was eventually sorted and they had finally figured out how to enter our visas into the system and we were all ready to depart.

The flight into Ushuaia had been late evening, and even in the dark it had looked quite spectacular coming in over the mountains and onto the runway jutting out into the sea. As it was now mid-afternoon and bright sunshine there was an even better view…..

Farewell Ushuaia. Even though it was a gateway to our Antarctic voyage I had enjoyed my hikes and stay there and would love to return to explore more one day……

Antarctica you were amazing…

I may have taken a lot of photos in Antarctica, but the animals and the landscape were beautiful and varied, so it was a paradise for photography. I can thoroughly recommend Intrepid to visit Antarctica. The expeditions were amazing, we got plenty of time on the zodiacs and the ice. The staff were amazing and the lectures and talks were fabulous. There weren’t too many people on board and I met many amazing people. I had high expectations for this trip, and it definitely exceeded them!

I did share a lot in my Antarctica blogs which you can catch up on here: Antarctica

But here are a gallery of just a few of my favourites and a selection of some of the highlights of the trip. Click on any image to see if full-sized.

Up next…..

The Antarctica portion of the trip was over but not the adventure. Our final few days were in Chile, with time in Santiago, and a trip to Valapraiso and the coast.

2 thoughts on “The Drake Shake

  1. Nic,

    As I was going to say in my last attempt to comment (but technical skills caused early posting :)), great photos and commentary.

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