Drake Passage

Feb 07, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Off we go to Antarctica!!  Having arrived in Ushuaia, the southernmost town in Argentina, we were treated to a boat ride along the Beagle Channel before arriving at the dock where the National Geographic Explorer awaited. Welcomed by the friendly crew and staff, we were directed to our appropriate cabins and checked that everything was in order with luggage and equipment. Then we departed to begin this experience which for many is a voyage of a lifetime.

During the night while most of us slept soundly, the ship turned out of the Beagle Channel and set a course that would take us across the Drake Passage to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. And as the morning light broke through a light layer of clouds, looking out the windows we could see the large swells following us and the white caps blown off the tops by the wind. Even though the swells and wind were strong, the following seas caused little concern and a large majority of people went to breakfast before attending the introductions of the natural history staff and special speakers on board. After the presentation we were all excited about the vast knowledge and expertise that would be a huge part of the total experience ahead of us.

Next up one of the staff gave a presentation on seabirds of the Southern Ocean, and their unique life history required to survive in the region’s unpredictable and harsh conditions. A few gathered on the back deck following the presentation to try and spot some of these ocean-wandering birds.

In the afternoon there was an important mandatory briefing on how to be responsible visitors to Antarctica and some guidelines for conduct ashore. We also learned how we would be transported from the ship to shore via Zodiac. Following this we went through a process of decontamination and thorough cleaning of clothes and gear to minimize the chances of introducing any foreign organisms while going ashore.

The next late afternoon program was focused on digital photography. Small groups divided into different corners of the lounge to discuss various aspects of cameras so both novices and more knowledgeable photographers had a chance to learn something before the action would begin.

As the day gradually ended and the light dimmed, the seas began to lessen and we were gently rocked to sleep. Anticipation was high as tomorrow morning we would hopefully get a first look at the Southern Continent.

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About the Author

Bud Lehnhausen


Bud received an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology at Colorado State University. He then immediately went to Alaska where he worked and lived for 30 years. At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Bud studied wildlife biology and received a master's degree conducting research on four species of alcid seabird nesting on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

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