Ship's Route:
From 3 to 4
Wednesday, 21/11/2001
Drake Passage
Noon navigation report from the bridge:
Location:Drake Passage
Speed:14 Knots
Air Temperature:20°C/68°F
Sea Temperature:11°C/52°F
Wind Speed/Direction:  Force 5/North West

The Drake Passage frequently has, quite literally, the worst weather in the world. In part because the ocean currents must pass through the bottleneck formed between the tip of South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and in part to the Antarctic Convergence (a variable band surrounding the pole where warm, more saline currents coming south from the tropics meet the cold, denser, less saline currents moving north from Antarctica), sailors expect the worse when traveling through these waters. We had a bit of a stiff breeze, but clear skies and relatively calm waters. We would see the other face of the Passage on the return trip, when we sailed through a typhoon.

Like the other passengers, we spent our time exploring the ship and meeting the crew, staff, and our fellow travelers. The Clipper Adventurer normally holds 122 passengers, but for our trip there were only 62, and yet the full complement of ship's crew and naturalist staff was on hand to cater to our every needs. We were spoiled rotten. Our cabin was number 211, which was one level below the Promenade Deck, which was where most of us spent our time on-board attending lectures in the forward lounge, hanging
out in the small bar, the Clipper Club (which received my vote as most unappreciated room on the ship), eating in the formal dining room, or braving the weather on-deck outside. Captain Alexander Golubev kept an open bridge, and that, along with the various observation decks forward and above, proved to be popular for bird watching or just gawking at the scenery.

The serious birders among us hung out for much of this time on stern deck, watching the various birds that trailed after our ship. Various species of albatross made appearances, as well as pintado petrels, southern giant petrels, fulmars, prions and storm petrels.

In addition to meals, exploring the ship, meals, birdwatching and meals the naturalist staff also gave lectures in the forward lounge. On any given day we might have four lectures on wildlife, geology or history of Antarctica, and we attended as many as possible. Each of the naturalists on board were excellent and gave captivating talks on the subject at hand, but my personal favorite was the geologist, Dr. David Dallmeyer, author of numerous textbooks on geology (I was no doubt biased, having earned a degree in geology during my university days).
Dr. Dallmeyer had the most complete and thorough handouts, and his presentations were always lively, animated and well attended affairs that became among the highlights of shipboard life. Julio Preller was the expedition leader, and he looked the part: a big rugged man brimming with energy and confidence, but he spoke with a voice that sounded like Andy Kaufman's Latka Gravis! It never ceased to amaze us that such a small, quiet voice could be coming from such a large man.

Members from the expedition staff came, quite literally, from around the world. They made up a talented team who worked together well, getting us off and on the boat, piloting the zodiacs through some pretty nasty surf, and answering our endless questions, and providing fascinating and useful facts for questions we should have asked, but didn't.

Each day the hotel staff would clean our cabin while we were at breakfast, and leave an itinerary for the day's activities on our night stand. The entire hotel staff, from Al Glazunov, the director who made sure everything was four star quality, Rob Whitely, our executive chef who produced the most amazing meals in a small galley, to the cleaning crew and wait staff all performed as well as their counterparts on land, but within the close confines of a frequently tossing and turning ship.

As far as our fellow passengers went, with the exception of Justine, who was about a decade younger than Elayne and I, and Roberta, who was our age, the others were at least a decade older than us. This surprised us, but it became apparent from the rather tame hikes and activities planned for our excursions on land that mostly retirees participated in this trip. None the less, all of the passengers were game for just about anything the staff and crew could think up to keep us busy and entertained.

While our life on board the Adventurer was more luxurious, and our excursions on land less strenuous or involved than we had anticipated, we thought that the crew and staff did an outstanding job, and we were delighted with the results.

The grey choppy water stretched away in all directions with little more than the swells to break the monotony, but eventually we crossed the Antarctic Convergence and arrived in the land of icebergs.


Dining Room

Clipper Club

Main Lounge

Top Observation Deck

Aft Promenade Deck

Ship's Route:
4 and 5
Thursday, 22/11/2001
Elephant Island
Noon navigation report from the bridge:
Location:Drake Passage
Speed:14 Knots
Air Temperature:11°C/52°F
Sea Temperature:1°C/33°F
Wind Speed/Direction:  Force 5/West

Morning saw us still plowing across the Drake Passage, but nearing its southern extreme. Outside the birders were treated with sightings of a light mantled sooty albatross as well as the small cloud of sea birds that began following us yesterday. Inside the rest of us were treated to ornithologist Simon Cook's talk on Penguins and Pink Gins, which covered the penguins we had already seen as well as those we expected to see later on in the trip. Just before lunch Julio reviewed the guidelines for Antarctic visitors in preparation for our first landing in this fragile environment.

While we were barely at sea for two days we were never the less excited and encouraged by the sight of Elephant Island in the late afternoon sun. This is the island where Shackleton and his men took refuge after their ship, the Endurance was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea. The crew lived on the ice flow for months before finally taking to their small life boats ice the flow began to break up. Most of the crew would remain on Elephant Island for over a year while Shackleton and four others made their way length wise through the insanely stormy Drake Passage in a tiny life boat to South Georgia Island.
Once here Shackleton then had to scale the mountain range at the center of the island (a feat only repeated within the last two decades) before arriving at the whaling port. From here Shackleton did not rest until he could mount a rescue expedition to save his crew from Elephant Island. In the end every crew member that sailed south with Shackleton returned safely home. We had read about the story of the Endurance and what Shackleton had done to get the expedition started in the first place, and how he shifted all of his energies and resources to saving the lives of his men when things went terribly wrong -- it was a stirring tale, and one we gladly listened to again that night in the lounge.

We did not land on Elephant Island, but the captain brought the Adventurer close in to the beach where the men had survived on their own for so long. It was hard to imagine anyone surviving there for so long even when we were visiting it, in the summer, much less through a winter season. While it wasn't part of Antarctica proper, it was part of that continent's history, and its towering ice capped mountains and ragged snow laden coast line whetted our appetites for more.

We sailed around to Point Wild on the other side of the Island, where Shackleton's party first landed, and then continued south as the sun crept ever farther toward the north west. That night we celebrated Thanksgiving in the dining room (virtually all of the passengers were American), and then enjoyed that evenings presentation while sipping drinks. Outside the sun reluctantly dipped just barely below the horizon, but never far enough down to allow the day to briefly enter a fleeting moment of twilight before ascending once again a few hours later to brighten the early morning hours.

Elephant Island

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