Drake Passage

Unless you are embarking from Australia or South Africa on your Antarctica cruise, you will almost undoubtedly pass through Drake Passage. This 500-mile-wide body of water separates Cape Horn, Chile from Antarctica's South Shetland Islands, and it connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. It is named after Sir Frances Drake, who was a renowned English privateer, navigator, and pirate, among other things. After passing through the Strait of Magellan in 1578, Drake was blown off course, nearing the passage that bears his name today. This incident was cause for mapmakers of the day to assume an open connection between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, which was quite the revelation at the time. As for the first voyage through Drake Passage, it was executed by Dutch explorers in the early 1600s.

Deception Island, which is one of the islands of the Drake Passage, is one island that you might visit on your Antarctica cruise. This island used to be a point of refuge for sailors who were navigating their way through the area waters. It's worth noting that Drake Passage is one of the planet's toughest bodies of water to cross, unless you are lucky enough to encounter relatively benign wind and water conditions. Ships tend to encounter ice when sailing through this passage, and the all around weather is regarded as some of the worst on earth. As such, a stop at places like Deception Island can be a very welcome thing. Deception Island is just one of many islands of the Drake Passage. In addition to the other South Shetland Islands, the Diego Ramirez Islands call the passage home. These island chains are often featured on the itineraries of many an Antarctic cruise, with the South Shetland Islands being particularly popular.

While cruising through Drake Passage in Antarctica, heading to one of the ship's viewing platforms is always a good idea when the weather is good. These platforms allow passengers to gaze out on the open waters, which are home to some interesting wildlife. Whales and dolphins are among the marine creatures that you are likely to see while passing through Drake Passage in Antarctica, and a number of seabirds also flourish here. Among the bird species that frequent the islands of the Drake Passage are penguins, giant petrels, and albatrosses.

Since Drake Passage in Antarctica is widely regarded as being the roughest ocean in the world, those who pass through it will want to be prepared for choppy seas. The winds often kick up to 50 miles an hour over these relatively treacherous waters, and 30-foot-tall waves are not uncommon. Since Drake Passage can be so rough to cross, cruise passengers usually have to endure a life boat drill, which can be a little unsettling. Getting to Antarctica is hard however you slice it, so you should always expect some discomfort when traveling here. Seasickness is unfortunately a common thing when it comes to sailing through Drake Passage in Antarctica, so you won't want to forget the proper medicine come trip time.

In addition to bringing seasick remedies along with you for your cruise through Drake Passage, you might also bring crackers and ginger ale, which can help keep your stomach calm. If at all possible, getting a lot of rest before boarding the ship is also recommended, and by all means you'll want to be alert during the safety orientation. Being alert while onboard is a good idea even when a safety orientation isn't taking place. Passengers in rough seas have been known to suffer cuts, bruises, and even broken limbs at the hands of a tossing ship, so it's wise to keep your edge. Should you be planning to bring alcohol along for the trip, perhaps to help calm your nerves, just remember to store it in a safe place, as the shifting seas can send bottles flying.

Sailing through Drake Passage in Antarctica isn't always a dangerous thing, and even if you encounter rough seas, the trip will be worth it. You'll catch glimpse of icebergs while cruising through this notorious body of water, which is a joy, and the amount of wildlife that you will encounter is likely to be impressive. Add in the fact that Drake Passage offers access to some fantastic islands and the Antarctica mainland, and it's easy to give it a pass for being so rough. You can always fly to Antarctica if you want to avoid going by boat, but it will likely cost you a lot more money. Plus, you'll miss some great sightseeing, which is something to consider. Start looking for your Antarctica cruise today, and come see why this long-neglected continent is fast becoming a travel hot spot.

Dry Valleys

Dry Valleys

The dry valleys of Antarctica are among the continent's most curious features...

Paradise Harbor Antarctica

Paradise Harbor

Paradise Harbor Antarctica is arguably the destination of choice for those wh...

Drake Passage

Drake Passage

Unless you are embarking from Australia or South Africa on your Antarctica cr...

Antarctica Travel Forum

Antarctic animals

Long before March of the Penguins came out, I've been in love with the cute critters who mak...

More Forum Posts »