Ushuaia and the Drake Passage

With the wonders of modern technology, I’m writing, and hopefully sending, this blog post from the MS Expedition, located just past 59 degrees south, halfway across the Drake Passage en route to our first point of call in Antarctica, the South Shetland Islands. We expect to make our first landing tomorrow afternoon, but it’s not yet clear exactly where.

The journey here was long, 20 hours door to door, to my hotel in Buenos Aires, followed by an early start the next morning to fly to Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern most tip of Argentina.

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After a day in Ushuaia, in which we more or less exhausted its tourist possibilities, we boarded the ship yesterday afternoon and set sail through the Beagle Channel, reaching the Drake Passage in the early hours of the morning.

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The crossing thus far has been remarkably gentle, although there are a few people laid up with sea sickness nonetheless. I’m one of the lucky ones, despite being one of the few onboard not dosed up to the eyeballs, I’m just fine.

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Today has been an at sea day, with little to see – no land on the horizon, and only the occasional black browed albatross in the distance. Standing out on deck and feeling the light rain on your face is always a pleasure though, and a good chance to get to know new people. Both passengers and crew are very international, although with the expedition company being based in Toronto, there are a disproportionate amount of Canadians, one of whom is my cabin mate who hails from Saskatchewan.

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To keep us occupied, there have been a number of lectures, on the birds, seals and geography of the Antarctic, and the story of Scott and Amundsen’s race to the pole. This latter story will be revisited in a few minutes, in the form of a film. We’ve also had the mandatory vacuum session, to try and remove all traces of seeds and contaminants from our gear, so that we don’t accidentally introduce new species to the area.

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Our photography group numbers eight, plus Chris our leader. Two of the faces are familiar from previous trips, the rest all new to me. After the initial shock of being introduced to six new names and faces at 4:30am the day after I arrived, I finally have everyone’s names down, and we’re all getting to know each other.

One small disappointment, we’ve discovered that there was the possibility to camp out on Antarctica for a night. Unfortunately, it’s something you had to sign up for in advance. If only we’d known, I’d have taken that option for sure. Guess that’s another reason I’ll just have to come back in the future!

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