At Sea, Drake Passage

Feb 15, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer

Once again the Drake Passage was being kind to the National Geographic Explorer and its gallant crew. Although not as calm as our southward journey, it was still quite benign compared to what conditions can be like when crossing this notorious body of water.

I wrote this at 17:35 local time and very soon we would be crossing the 60th parallel, leaving Antarctica. This would be a sad moment for us all, I am sure, after such an action-packed expedition. A number of hardy individuals still visited the Bridge, and watched our steady progress northwards to warmer waters.

There has been some wildlife visiting the ship, namely the stately wandering albatross, and two of its smaller cousins, the black-browed and the grey-headed albatross. And during the day we were treated to a number of talks in the lounge. They began with National Geographic photographer Dan Westergren teaching us how to take photographs in difficult and extreme situations. After lunch, Carol Knott treated us to a full and fascinating account of Shackleton’s fateful expedition into the Weddell Sea in 1914. The day’s talks were rounded out by the Global Perspectives Guest Speaker, Ken Taylor, who explained the physical mechanics behind land ice loss and its direct correlation to sea level rise. This was a very informative lecture that focused everyone’s attention.

The Recap sessions that took place before dinner, covered such diverse topics as, tagging dwarf minke whales in Australia, killer whale research in the Antarctic, Frank Worsley’s amazing navigation from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and a video of yesterday’s dive near Palmer Station. As the day ended, the National Geographic Explorer continued to roll its way north towards Cape Horn, and the final day at sea. 

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe


John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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