Wednesday, February 15, 2012

South America and Antarctica 15 - Drake Passage

The roughly 600 mile passage between the southern top of South America and the Antarctic peninsula has justifiably been called the roughest stretch of ocean on earth. 

When it's bad, it's called the Drake shake.  Thirty to fifty foot swells with winds above 60 miles per hour are not uncommon.  But we were fortunate enough to get what is known as the Drake lake on our way over.

It was two glorious days and three nights of calm seas, low winds and generally great weather.  A very much appreciated gift.

The calm weather gave me a chance to practice photographing birds, like this Cape Petrel.  It turns out to be a lot harder to get a good bird frame than I had previously imagined.  They fly so fast and come at you from such a close angle that by the time you get your camera focused and framed on one it's already flown past you.

I probably shot 200 frames to get these two.  In the end it was more dumb luck and the law of averages than skill. 

I also visited the ship's bridge several times during our Drake crossing.  I did that because Captain Marchesseau mentioned in his orientation briefing that he had an open bridge policy.

He said that anyone was welcome on the bridge at any time.  All he asked was that passengers stay out of the way and respect the job the officers had to do, which we all did.

The communications guy has his own work space.  Whenever I visited the bridge I always found an atmosphere of calm and easy going professionalism.  The Captain and his officers were all comfortable with their respective responsibilities and interacted with each other in a professional, easy, relaxed way with each other, as though they were oblivious to being watched. 

After inviting the question, Captain Marchesseau answers while still keeping a watchful eye on the icebergs ahead of us.

A moment after I snapped this picture, he excused himself and quietly announced orders to change course in order to avoid a huge iceberg looming up directly in front of us.  The officer at the wheel repeated the orders, the captain nodded, and the officer made it happen, calling out the degree heading changes as the ship made it's turn to the left. 

At the end of our second day, islands along the Antarctic peninsula came into view.  Standing on the pool deck, directly outside of our buffet dining area, Richard Harker, the staff photography coach, grabs a shot with his 200mm, f/2 lens.

For what it's worth, anyone can purchase the lens he is using for a mere $6,000 or so.  I'm not sure he needed it here, but it gave him great street cred among the passengers.

Melony took this of me as we approached the Antarctic peninsula.  Temperatures had noticeably cooled by then.  I thought the red parkas they gave us were a silly marketing gimmick when I first learned we'd be receiving one to keep.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find them very well made, water repellant and toasty warm.

Continue on to Post 16: Icebergs and Penguins, by clicking here.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home