Saturday, January 27, 2024

Antarctica 2023-4 - Day 4 - 12/29/2023 - Into the Drake Passage

Once again my sleep last night could have been better, especially given that the late night and early start of schedule didn’t give much time to sleep. The ship cast off right as we were going to bed around 1am and spent the first few hours in the calm Beagle Channel. I got some sleep during this time, but I woke up a couple of times, and I definitely had some anxiety about how things would change once we hit the Drake Passage. It was around 6am when the big bobbing began, and I couldn’t sleep much after that. We later learned that the water conditions were apparently “mild”, with only 2.5-3 meter swells. Well, nothing about that felt mild to me, even though I have seen footage of much worse. My shaky sea legs somehow got through a shower without falling (the handles were a lifesaver), and we made it to breakfast about 20 minutes before it ended at 9am. Despite the Bonine tablets that we had started taking the night before for motion sickness, I was already feeling queasy, and had to force myself to eat at least a little; the heat in the dining room didn’t help my intense sweating, and I even briefly had the shakes a couple of times (including while in bed). I certainly wasn’t the only one struggling, as we came across a few people who were in the act of vomiting or had already done so. Meanwhile, Fran had essentially no problems at all.

The first mandatory activity was a safety drill at 9am, followed by a mandatory intro briefing at 10am. I could barely keep my eyes open from tiredness during the briefing, in addition to feeling unwell. Luckily, the next mandatory (for all) briefing wasn’t until 1:30pm, so I took some time to rest/nap in the room. Fran had a sea kayaking briefing at 11am, but I did not sign up for that activity. However, she cancelled her reservation after the briefing because she found out that the sea kayaking group went out on every excursion, so if she did that she couldn’t also do any excursions with me (without also putting out her assigned kayaking partner).

I once again forced down some food for lunch, and started to feel slightly better after. On the other hand, the pelvic discomfort started up around that time. I took the opportunity after lunch to check in with the expedition doctor/medic about my seasickness and over-active bladder - this was mostly information only, as there were no new actions to take about either condition.

The 1:30pm mandatory meeting concerned IAATO and biosecurity when visiting Antarctica - extra measures are taken to ensure that travelers are not bringing any foreign species to the continent (e.g., via seeds stuck in outerwear velcro). Afterward passengers were asked to bring in their outerwear for checking by expedition crew, and cleaning (e.g., vacuuming, sanitization) if necessary. I was a bit of a wreck for the rest of the afternoon, so I didn’t attend any more briefings (they were all optional) in person. The expedition/ship has a nice feature where they broadcast the feed from the main presentation area (the Nautilus Lounge) on a channel on the TVs in the room - I took advantage of this to watch a couple of the briefings remotely while resting in the room. On Fran’s urging, I also went outside briefly a couple of times to get fresh air. She spent a lot of time out there, enjoying the air and looking out for wildlife - she saw a whale.

The expedition leader holds a daily recap where he shares plans for the next day and brings on guests for lightning talks. This happened at 6:30pm today, and dinner followed at 7pm. Unlike the buffet breakfast and lunch, dinner was a la carte. I couldn’t eat much once again, and actually began to feel worse during the meal. We headed back to the rooms soon after dinner to settle in and try to catch up on sleep lost the night before.

Front of my key card (with makeshift lanyard by Franny)

Some early observations about the fellow passengers on the expedition (198 total according to what we overheard at check-in)… The age range/composition skewed a little younger than we expected. One surprise is that there is one family that brought young-ish children - about low teenage or pre-teen. Another surprise is that Australians are tied with Americans as the most represented nationality (I believe 35% each) - we didn’t realize that Intrepid is an Australian company. Ethnicity is mostly white as expected, though there are quite a few Asians and a couple of other Blacks. Lastly, it should come as no surprise that people visiting Antarctica are already well-travelled. Of the people we’ve conversed with (or observed) so far only a couple of days in: this is the 7th continent for quite a few of them; a few of them are on extended trips (including Tom and TJ on 18 months through Africa and Latin America); a bunch have done previous expeditions with Intrepid; there have been many mentions of outdoor/adventure hobbies/interests/activities.


My favorite pictures from the trip can be found here.

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