The sun hung low over the distant watery horizon, as it always does in the Drake Passage. Here it barely rises into a gray cold sky. It struggled to make a shallow ark. It cast a golden glow about the ship; the M/V Ushuaia. The thick polar atmosphere tempered its fearsome fires, reducing it to a feeble creature. And dark gray clouds released it only occasionally from their grip.
Not many people were on deck as the able ship sliced through the icy waters. It was very cold outside, below freezing, and the Antarctic wind made it much colder than that. But albatross glided effortlessly on the frosty gale, as it reflected off the hull. They had been with the ship since it left Ushuaia the previous day and would hitch a ride all the way to Antarctica. The majestic creatures with massive wings outstretched would fly up and down in a never ending dance with the ship.
The mighty Southern Ocean churned and tossed the tiny vessel and its fragile inhabitants. Powered by the mixing of the vast Antarctic Ocean and the South Polar Ocean, in what is known as the Antarctic Convergence, unimaginable forces drove the undulating watery plain. Back and forth, left and right, up and down the ship was thrown. Unendingly and relentlessly the unnatural motion continued. So powerful was this movement that people were tossed from chairs and hurled down gangways. The ceaseless motion took its toll on everyone from broken arms to nightmarish nausea; there was no escaping it.
Mixed between the endless sunsets and sunrises two days passed by; eventually, at first in the distance, but soon all around icebergs were spotted. Like giant silent floating buildings would never do, they drifted by our tiny vessel. They reminded all of us of our minuscule stature and humbled us against the potent polar region.
Excitement rose up and spread around the ship like a virus as the first sighting of land in days was made. We had made it to the Antarctic Peninsula, but more importantly to the protection of its smoother waters. Finally we would have relief from the ceaseless churning of the Drake Passage.
The trip to Antarctica is a difficult one, but the price is definitely worth paying. See my next article to continue exploring the vast southern continent with me.