Day 1 - January 29, 2005 - Travel to Puerto Williams Chile
It was early when we left Ushuaia with no mention from the staff as to why we were delayed. After a breakfast of eggs, sausages, coffee and fresh fruit I dressed in warm clothes and went up top on the foredeck… brrrrr…. it was cold outside. We traveled through the Beagle Channel until we approached a small city in the country of Chile. We docked at the naval base in Puerto Williams, Chile (probably the true southern most city in the world). It was early in the day and was quite overcast. I was surprisedwe got to land here as I had heard there was still some conflict between Chile and Argentina and it was a bit disconcerting when we docked next to a Chilean gunship. However, it was very peaceful and I enjoyed the casual hiking around this small city. There were several monuments including one for Ernest Shackelton who was an early Antarctic explorer, a liberator named Bernardo O’Higgins (really, I am not making this stuff up!), and the bow of the Yelcho that Shackelton used to save his crew on Elephant Island. Le Diamante had an Chilean based Pilot board us for navigating the nearly 60 miles through the darkness of the protected Beagle Channel. Back on board and it was dinner and sail away.
Day 2 - Sunday January 30, 2005 - At sea in the Drake Passage
After seeing all the fjords and channels in the Beagle Channel we would be seeing nothing today but the ocean after we had passed the Cape Horn in the darkness of night. The Captain assured us it would be daylight when we passed it upon our return. We then entered the notorious Drake Passage. The Drake Passage has a varied history within itself… It is the body of water between the southern tip of South America and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It is known as one of the roughest waters in the world where cyclonic lows of near hurricane strength travel through it on average of once every three weeks.
The beginning part of the Drake Passage was fairly smooth with a nothing more than a gentle swell. This offered the opportunity to go outside and take in all that was the Drake Passage. Sea birds would follow the ship and after spotting my firstalbatross it told me we must be far away from land as these birds are vagabonds of the open sea. The seas were starting to roll a bit more and by dusk the ship was rolling a lot in the 30 foot seas. Tomorrow we would begin to see the Southern Shetland Islands near the continent of Antarctica. The seas were rolling the ship very noticeably and by breakfast the next morning it revealed that fewer than 15 percent of the passengers were able to eat breakfast…
NOTE: The Drake Passage or Mar de Hoces was named after the 16th centuryEnglish privateer Sir Francis Drake.