Deception Island, Antarctica
62° 54' S 60° 30' W
Dec 18, 2003 08:39
Distance 0km

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Drake Passage 57'22'' S and 65'45'' W

Waking up at around 06:00 AM was an experience. The boat was rolling heavily now and the Drake Passage seemed to have lived up to its name and fame. This was where we had been warned for and this was wat most of us wanted. Well, we got it and not too little. I went up to the bridge for the most impressive view. The waves were big. 5 to 8 meters high and the wind was about force 7 on the Beaufort scale. Walls of water came right over the bridge that is the highest point of the ship, on top of six other decks. Cape Horn the movie we watched last night got an extra dimension. So did the ship, well at least it looked like it when we moved around.

The program of today is as follows:

08:00 Breakfast is served in the dining room 09:00 Antarctic Treaty and Tourism discussion. Join Dennis in the Observation Lounge 11:00 Longline fishing and its impact on the Albatross populations. A lecture by John in the Observation Lounge 12:30 Lunch is served in the dining room 15:00 Living & Working in Antarctica - a 30 year summer. Lecture by Scobie in the Observation Lounge 16:00 Please settle your account with Chris at Reception Weather permitting we expect to arrive off Cape Horn in the late afternoon. Please listen for announcements. 19:00 Recap and Captain's Farewell Toast in the Observation Lounge 19:30 Dinner is served in the dining room

Breakfast at 8:00 became a funny experience. Everybody had difficulty with walking or even standing. People fell over the ground and glasses and plates were thrown of tables. Chairs with people on it where moving constantly and eating became a challenge for those who were not seasick. Judy, the doctor was distributing free seasickness tablets like candy for all interested.

After breakfast I went back up the bridge to watch the Drake Passage acting like a Drake. Unbelievable. Average wind speed had gotten up again and hovered around 40-45 knots per hour or 20-25 meters per second. That is a force 9 or a strong gale. At times the waves were up to 10 meters high and wind blew occasionally up to force 11, more than a 100 km per hours. That is not funny in the open waters of the Drake I can tell you. Our Ice breaker was tossed and turned as if it was a feather. Spectacular!

At 9:00 Dennis held a talk on the IAATO and the history and future of tourism and the regulations and difficulties that come along with it. As early as the 1920's Great Britain m ade claims on Antarctica for New Zealand, Australia and itself. In the 1930's France, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador followed. In 1961 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty defining everything south of 60'; South an area that shall not be exploited and only be used for peaceful and scientific purposes. Now, 45 nations are part of the Treaty, covering more than 80% of the world population, making it a unique cooperation in the world. All political claims are frozen and neither denied nor recognised.

The unique land where there are no natives is the only area in the world that has never seen a war. Another unique aspect is that the Treaty has accepted a measure in 1982 addressing the whole ecosystem as a protected reserve. This is unusual because this is not done anywhere in the world where there are mostly measures that regulate groups of animals.

Tourism began in 1958 with a ship from Argentina to the South Shetlands. Great Britain started in 1966 with cruise ships to the Antarctic and in 1972-1973 the first multiple cruises appeared on the scene. As early as 1973 there had been a 900 passenger cruise ship going further south than 60'. In 1977 the first overflight was done by Qantas and in 1978 this resulted in a crash on Mt Erebus on Antarctica killing all 275 passengers. The only other disaster so far has been the killing of ten people on a Lan Chile flight to the South Shetland Islands.

From 1992 Russian ships came, taking about 3000 people a year. In 2003 it is expected that 17.000 people will visit on about 27 vessels in 156 trips. This is up from 13.000 in the 2003-2003 season. USA, Germany and UK make up the largest part of tourists. Until now no more than 200 Dutch people per year have visited Antarctica and I am one of the lucky ones.

After Dennis had finished the meeting the whole lecture desk that is attached to the floor came of the floor because of the high waves and turbulence. The whole bar became a carillon of bottles and glasses and the furniture which was now attached to the floor could not move too much. Walking was almost impossible and for that reason John's lecture about the longline fishing has been postponed. These waves are huge. What an excitement. The weather forecast is not very promising for the rest of the trip. A great experience though. Lunch at 12:30 was simple but nice. Home-style Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and a salad buffet. Well, the salad buffet got cancelled because it was flying all through the room from the buffet table. So instead it got served at the table. After some spillage we found out that you should not fill a deep plate with soup to the edge. Even half full was too much and the soup was overflowing several plates. The only solution was holding the plate in your hand or filling the plate for 10% only. It was my first flying soup experience. A Sorbet was for dessert.

The afternoon stayed tricky and stormy with force 8 and 9 waves and winds howling through the bridge. At one point the floor on the bridge almost got vertical and even the second mate got nervous because he immediately steered to a new direction after we came back from the big dip down.

At 15:00 we got the second last lecture of the day. Scobie told a personal story about the time he was working and living on South Georgia. Very interesting to hear such life from someone who has done it. Great slides about his house and work environment.

Around 16:00 land was sighted for the first time since we left the South Shetland Islands two days earlier. It was the famous Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America. This Chilean cape is actually an island, Cabo del Hornas. The sunlight on the cape was great and the seas had calmed down completely. Strange, because these waters are historically known for being rough most of the time. It took some of the old sailors more than 70 days to round the Cape from east to west. It took us only about an hour of slow cruising. Now I have seen all three southernmost places in the world. Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Slope Point in New Zealand and now the infamous Cape Horn.

The Farewell dinner after Dennis' recap and the captain's toast was the last time we would eat that fabulous food. The Navy Bean Soup was followed by a salad buffet that was a real buffet again. The main course was a choice again. This time of Argentine Beef Fillet served with Onion Strings or a Poached Chilean Salmon Fillet with Dill Hollandaise or Chris' Stuffed Potatoes for the vegetarians amongst us. Dessert was an Antarctic Roll, ice in cake. After dinner John caught up with his cancelled morning lecture about the albatrosses that get caught in long line fishing every year. The ticket sale for a drawing of John on a sea chart raised more than 750 US-dollars for the saving of these great majestic birds. Hannah had created a logbook of the trip and two poems I made during the trip were published. My first publishing got printed in 55 copies.

While the sun sank in the ocean for the last time during this cruise we chatted away the evening in the Observation Lounge. At the end of the evening I climbed the stairs again to the bridge for the last time. Especially with the sun setting, behind us this time as we were sailing from West to East along Cape Horn and the other islands south of the Beagle Channel, is this the best place to be on the ship. Great views over the Ocean. Later that night we entered the Beagle Channel again and set course for Ushuaia where we would arrive early in the morning.