Ushuaia appeared on the Beagle Channel, calm and lulling. Our trip ended where as all such trips should: late at night, in a raucous Irish bar.
It was barely fortification for the day to come. We know now why penguins don’t fly. And while that’s a bad joke, so was the two-hour wait in line for the sole person working the security computer at the Ushuaia airport and the additional two-hour line for check in at American Airlines in Buenos Aires, for which there is no excuse. If executives and board members had to suffer the long queues, insufficiently staffed counters and hard seats in coach that their customers are tortured with, American — and other companies — would clean up their act. It ought to be written into the FAA code.
If there was one rosy side to the frustration, it was the attention it diverted from parting with new friends. Most of those you meet along the way are simply bypassers, but a few strike close to your soul. We hope to see you again on the next journey into the unknown.
The dreaded Drake Passage keeps many people from contemplating a trip to Antartica. The sail through the Roaring Forties leadings to the Screaming Fifties (we’re talking latitude here) on to the Antarctic Convergence (where the water gets REALLY cold) and the Southern Ocean.
Night-time swells were up to 20 feet, we’re told; by day, we’re rolling (and yes, the ship and those aboard it do roll, clinging to ropes stretched across the lobby) through waves of 12 to 15 feet….what’s considered medium crossing conditions. The skies are variable, which is to say one minute hailing, the next sunny, the next so foggy you can’t see the waves outside the window, and again to snow and sun. A scopolomine patch proves critical. The young girls (and old men) who thought they could tough it out are finding otherwise. (For me, with a patch stuck securely behind my ear, the trip is a breeze.)
In the climate controlled comfort of our 162-passenger ship, the National Geographic Explorer, we can only imagine what it might have been the Shackleton crew and those of other exploration teams to sail the Beagle Channel, heading to who knew exactly what. To be whipped by hail and snow and gusts on a sailing vessels whose canvas was already worn from the trip from Europe – these people were brazen, brave and likely nuts. What an amazing feat it was.
Here aboard our Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic trip, we’ve got snug parkas, warming cups of hot cocoa and a photo lessons with the staff. Our biggest problem: figuring out how to get the best photographs.
No ice floes yet, but we’ve got hundreds of miles yet to steam before we hit the shores of the White Continent.