Drake Passage

Southern Ocean

Day 11: Monday, January 14, 2002

Monday, January 14, 2002
Antarctica Lecture "White Continent for Research" with Dr. Lawson Brigham
Antarctica Lecture "Ernest Shackleton's Endurance Expedition"
with Dr. Lawson Brigham and Dr. Bernard Stonehouse

At 7:00 am the ms Ryndam crossed the Antarctic Convergence and entered the Southern Ocean. At around 6:00 pm we crossed 60 S to enter the Antarctic Treaty area. By this time the wind was gusting to gale force. An hour later we saw our first large fragments of tabular bergs and at 9:00 pm, the grim, icebound north coast of Elephant Island loomed in the mist. At 10:30 pm we stood between two glaciers off Point Wild, where Shackleton's men awaited rescue under their upturned boats. In rapidly fading light, the ms Ryndam turned eastward to Cape Valentine (the first landing point for Shackleton and his crew) and then south to lie for a few hours in the lee of the island.

We had our second lifeboad drill at 10 AM before we actually crossed over into the Drake Passage. It was foggy and the temperature was 46º F. By noon the wind was out of the northwest at 40 mph. The sea is more than 1000 ft deep here. Location 60ºS 55ºW. The temperature was 41ºF. This was the day to put on the silk long johns.

A peek out the door at 4:13 PM.

The door is streaming with water splashed from the sea nine floors below.
The Drake Passage is living up to its reputation as the roughest body of water on earth.

We're looking down on the sea from the 9th floor!

The Drake Passage is part of what is sometimes known as the Southern Ocean which circles the globe with Antarctica at its center. Because of the rotation of earth the winds and the currents go from west to east. There is no land mass that projects into this ocean to interrupt these currents. They circumnavigate the earth again and again picking up speed as they go.

We Travel South

The eastward rolling waves hit the starboard or right side of the ship. Our port side cabin is on the lee (or protected) side of the ship. Yet there was enough force in the lee side waves to splash our 9th floor door!

We lost a lot of dishes in the galley and dining rooms this evening during dinner hour. After the first big lurch, some of the dining stewards held on to the the stacks of dishes on the service station counters, while others delivered them to the tables.

We were in a storm with 50 mile-per-hour winds and 30 foot seas! Captain said he altered course slightly into the wind. By 8 PM, fog closed in and it looked like dusk, even though sundown would not be until 9:30 PM. In spite of the storm, small white birds flew beside the ship near the water. They rarely had to flap their wings.

9:30 PM we saw a large iceberg a couple of miles west. It was rectangular in shape and about nine-tenths of a mile long according to the experts who have experience with them. It looked like a huge block of ice. We were at 61º8'S 54º32'W at 11:30 PM.

We did reach Elephant Island a little after 10 PM, but it was too foggy to attempt getting a picture. The captain said we'd spend the night on the south side of Elephant Island for some shelter from the wind. They felt it too dangerous to move the ship when it was too dark to see possible ice bergs.

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Page last updated February 18, 2002.