Boarding the MV Ushuaia mid-afternoon, our adventure to the white continent was a little bit closer. No more time to research, no more time to buy any more warm clothes – we were aboard and for the next 11 days, this would be home.
After checking in, we were lead to our room and were very happy to find out we’d been upgraded to a room with a porthole. Getting the cheapest, last-minute tickets meant we’d paid for a room way down in the bowels of the ship, so it was great we’d have a (small) view from our room.
After unpacking and making sure our heater was working, we headed back upstairs for the drinks to welcome us on board, and to celebrate our departure down the Beagle Channel – the start of our adventure.
As we sipped our sparkling wine in the main lounge, after being introduced to the crew and staff, you could feel the excitement in the air. Looking around at our fellow 80 passengers, you could see there was a mix of people from all over the world, from Barbados to China, ages ranging from 23 to 82, and people who’d been on the road for months and people here just for this trip. One thing was clear, we all shared the same large smiles and nervous energy.
We had our first dinner as a group and the excitable noise in the dining room was accompanied by a feeling of nervous anticipation due to two things. Firstly the pure adrenaline – we were on route to the Antarctic, something we had never imagined we’d be able to do. And secondly, the knowledge that during the night we would be entering the Drake Passage for a 2 day crossing of possible rough seas before we’d reach the South Shetland Islands. We were warned the weather forecast so far wasn’t looking too kind.
Preparation for crossing the Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage is notoriously bad, so everyone had come prepared with a variety of seasickness remedies from patches to tablets. We’d read that the crossings were rated on the Beaufort scale from 1 to 12. Level one on the Drake Passage was referred to as the ‘drake lake’, clear and calm waters – very uncommon. Level 12 is called the ‘drake shake’ and is referred to on the scale as ‘hurricane force’ with waves up to 14 metres and 118km winds. Not something we wanted to experience. We were hoping for nothing higher than 6, referred to as ‘strong breeze’ which sounded a lot worse than strong breeze to us, with waves up to 4m and winds to 49kms.
Heading to bed along the passages and hallways lined with sick bags as an omen of what was to come, we settled into our respective bunk beds for our first night at sea on the MV Ushuaia. With the safety bars up on the bed to stop us rolling out in the night, and seasickness tablets taken, we kept our fingers crossed that the seas would be kind.
Our trip to Antarctica was with Antarpply Expeditions on the MV Ushuaia in March 2014. Review to come (but in short they were fantastic). Contact us if you have any questions – we’re more than happy to help and share our experience.