Drake Passage

Feb 14, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Today we were between two worlds, one of ice and snow, the other of forest and rock.  Both are beautiful but they are worlds apart, yin and yang, black and white.  Separating the two is Drake Passage, connecting the South Pacific Ocean with the South Atlantic Ocean.  The infamous Drake Passage is often restless as it should be, it is a nexus of earth and water.  Only at these latitudes is water encircling the entire globe.  Only at these latitudes are the winds allowed to sweep the world with no impediments, except the occasional ship.

You might be wondering what this day was like for us?  Not bad, people were about, at meals, at lectures, returning rented boots, waterproof pants and ski poles, or working on images at computer.  Some Antarctic veterans say Drake Passage is not what it used-to-be, always stormy, like a powerful entity in a Greek myth protecting a magical land.  This might be true.  I have only been doing the passage for about 20 years, but it seems the same to me, although maybe it is more often ‘Drake Lake’ than it has been before. Mostly, I think the ships have gotten better.

The first ship for Antarctic ecotourism was the Lindblad Explorer, the little red ship, strong and dauntless, built for the ice.  The same can be said for the National Geographic Explorer, but she is also built for the winds and the seas. I have sailed on both, I know the difference between them, and it is like the difference between a horse-drawn coach and a Cadillac! However, neither of those ships could be compared to those used by the sealers and explorers almost 200 years ago, sailing ships of wood that were considered better than iron in the ice. The people were also different, they seemed stronger, tougher and more determined.  These giants must have had a more powerful Drake Passage!

So how was today?  Not so bad, just a bit of confusion as we wake from a dream.  Tomorrow morning, we will see Cape Horn.

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo


Dennis began scuba diving during the mid-1970s as part of a research project. At the time he was a research associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, studying the population of winter hibernating sea turtles.  What began as a scientific study soon became a conservation project that expanded to three species of sea turtles along the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.  This project received major funding from the World Wildlife Fund and was eventually taken over directly by that agency with Kim Clifton and Dennis Cornejo as co-principal investigators.

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