At Sea, Drake Passage

Dec 08, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


A day at sea crossing the Drake Passage can bring to mind many images. For some it is the dynamic soaring of a wandering albatross or giant petrel, effortlessly harnessing the wind for transportation. Others see it as the biological transition between the warmer northern waters of the south Atlantic and the consistently cold currents of the Antarctic proper. For me, nothing represents the Drake Passage more than the varied shapes and sizes of the swells that roll from west to east across this expansive landscape of ocean and sky. Some days produce long, shallow swells with the troughs and peaks spaced hundreds of meters apart. Other days have steeper swells spaced closer together, actually cresting into waves despite the thousands of feet of water beneath our keel.

Today was a perfect day to observe the nuance between swell profiles and get into the rhythm of the sea. As a ship that partially blocks the march of ocean current to the east, many swells will bounce off the starboard side of our hull, momentarily moving in the opposite direction before bouncing head on into the swells behind it, creating a peak of water that rises out of the sea like something alive.

Today, our first full day at sea, produced a variety of swells. The bigger swells were my chance to capture the varied faces of Southern Ocean waves as they collide with our southward progress and create patterns of green, turquoise, black, and white on their rebound.

What follows is a gallery of portraits of that very sea. They represent our ships influence on the thin meniscus of the ocean’s surface as we motor along, only slightly redirecting the planets largest single flow of water as we do. The portraits are therefor a blend of raw nature and those of us willing to expose ourselves to its potential and speak to that interaction.  

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About the Author

Eric Guth

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Eric began work with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in 2006 as a means to see the world, work with great photographers and engage his environmental studies degree beyond the classroom. His initial years with the company were spent working the waters of Southeast Alaska and Baja California. His move to the National Geographic Explorer in 2008 helped earn him the experience and knowledge needed to establish himself as a trusted boat handler, naturalist and respected photographer in nearly all the environments Lindblad-National Geographic travels.

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