From the National Geographic Explorer at Sea
Jan 8, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
At Sea / Drake Passage
When we awoke this morning, less than 200 miles south of Cape Horn, the water temperature surrounding the hull of National Geographic Explorer was well above freezing (6 degrees C on average). By the time dinner came, however, the bridge recorded a significant drop in seawater temperatures, bringing us closer to 1 degree C on average and thus signify our biological transition into Antarctica proper. Since the warmer, less dense northern waters don’t mix very well with the colder, more dense southern ocean waters a fluctuating line called the Antarctic convergence marks this transition from the more temperate northern latitudes to the less hospitable south; the biologically sub-Antarctic species from the biologically Antarctic species; the realm of vegetation to the realm of snow, ice and rock.
While this crossing (so far!) has not lived up to the reputation the west winds have made for the Southern Ocean it would be hard to complain about such mild conditions. The winds have hardly blown above 15 knots, the gentle swell is pushing us towards our destination and, if all remains this forgiving we should reach the South Shetland Islands before breakfast tomorrow morning — a full half-day ahead of schedule!!!
On this, our first full day in the famed Drake Passage, I can’t help but remember my first crossing. Looking into the eyes of so many first time Antarctic visitors is like re-living the anticipation I felt before reaching this fabled destination 4 years ago. The sense of excitement seems to be palpable onboard National Geographic Explorer and the questions asked throughout the day have revealed the unmistakable sense of wonder visitors to this place seem to bring… “How do penguins sleep? Why is the Antarctic convergence so significant? How do I best photograph icebergs???” The Drake, and its reputation, is a vital part of the Antarctic experience and, being smack dab in the middle of this body of water today has helped build the excitement for what lies beyond.