The Drake Passage

Feb 04, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Before our voyage began, some guests were concerned about a rough sail through the Drake Passage on our way south. But luck was on our side, and we made excellent time—even arriving in the South Shetland Islands early. A few adventurous guests were disappointed that it was such a smooth ride. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the knowledge that we’d be passing through again at the end of our expedition...

After leaving the Antarctic peninsula on our last evening, we were told that it would probably be a rather normal Drake Passage. We left the protection of the islands of the peninsula and began to think that maybe the Drake wasn’t going to be quite as calm as it was before. As we looked out this morning, we saw that we were heading into an ocean swell with a breeze coming from the northwest. It was gray outside, with light rain on and off.

It was an excellent day to listen to a number of informative presentations. Our time in the peninsula had been packed with sights to see and activities to do. We had little downtime for presentations from the naturalist staff and additional speakers.

We spotted a few albatrosses soaring over the waves and small groups of pintado petrels wheeling by the side of the ship. Before dinner, we were treated to a preview of the voyage video. From the few first minutes, we could all tell how hard staff had worked, filming and editing our collective memories. Dinner was, as usual, a lively endeavor. The seas continued to roll but everyone handled the ocean motion well. And we discovered what a “normal” Drake Passage was.

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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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