The Elephant and the Drake


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January 31st 2019
Published: February 3rd 2019
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On Tuesday morning we had no excursions because the ship was still on its way to Elephant Island. Elephant Island is best known as the place where Shackleton left Frank Wild and most of the Endurance crew while he and a handful of others took to sea in a modified lifeboat in the hopes of finding help at South Georgia Island.

The morning was taken up with talks in the presentation room and a movie called Shackleton’s Captain. We had no idea if we would be making it ashore in the afternoon though. One of our guides said he has been to Elephant Island ten times but only landed two or three times. Another staff member, the resident Antarctica historian, has been coming to Antarctica for over fifty years and has never landed there. So the odds were against us!

After lunch, most of us headed outside to look at Elephant Island and, specifically, at Point Wild where Shackleton’s men spent three months awaiting rescue. It was the only decent bit of low-lying land, but it was also fully exposed to the Drake passage so it cannot have been fun. There is a monument there now, which we could
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just see with binoculars and zoom lenses.

While we were out there, the staff launched a zodiac to test if conditions would permit a landing. We watched the expedition leader in the zodiac being lowered into the sea. He came up alongside the gangway, but it was shaking from side to side and the swell was forcing both up and down at different rates. We all concluded there was no way they were going to let us board a zodiac in those conditions. Sure enough, they were soon craning the zodiac back onto the ship.

And with that, we were leaving Antarctica and heading into the Drake Passage. That evening the seas were definitely rougher than anything we had encountered previously. I was fine when lying down, but when I spent some time at the computer before dinner, I began getting a bit queasy. Then, when I was down in the dining room, I started feeling very ordinary. I ended up leaving after eating only a bread roll but if I’d stayed, I don’t think it would have ended well. Someone gave me a seasickness patch and I laid down and began feeling better. I fell asleep early and had a good nights’ sleep.

In the morning, even though we were well into the Drake Passage, the seas were much calmer. I felt much better but couldn’t tell whether it was the calmer seas or the seasickness patch. I didn’t much care, but even though I had slept well and long, I kept having naps throughout the day. I went to a couple of talks in the presentation room and spent some time on the stern deck taking photos of petrels following the boat, but all in all it was an easy day.

That night they held a charity auction for a number of charities that work on protecting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean for wildlife. Some items struggled to get a bid, such as the opportunity to do the morning wake-up call over the PA. I bid on a book and a photo print, but the price soon went higher than I wanted to pay. The final item was the one I wanted most – a British nautical chart covering our journey with pictures drawn on it by our very talented bartender, Carly. However, bidding started at $500 and I didn’t want it that much!
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Elephant Island
A couple of impromptu items were suggested by passengers, including a bagpipe serenade from the expedition leader and then many of us chipped in to raise over $1,000 so the expedition leader would sleep outside on deck that night. We raised it and he did so!

Thursday I was still feeling okay and had a bit more motivation than I did the previous day (I’m blaming the seasickness patch rather than my usual laziness!) so I planned to spend the day writing up the blog entries for the cruise, because so far I had only processed the photos. I did go out to the stern deck to see if I could photograph an albatross or two. I think I only got petrels, but when I went out later in the afternoon, one of them may have been an albatross but I’m not sure. Anyway, it was a fairly quiet day as I sat in the bar writing up these blogs.

As I type this, the Falklands have appeared on the horizon, so we are clear of the Drake Passage. Even though I got a bit seasick, from all reports this was a very smooth crossing by Drake Passage
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Elephant Island
standards. I am very glad of that!

And now our Antarctic adventure draws to a close. We spend all day tomorrow in the Western Falklands before disembarking in Stanley on Saturday. I can’t believe how quickly it has gone, but wow… what a place, what an adventure! I don’t know if I will ever get back to Antarctica but I know I definitely would like to!


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3rd February 2019

The seduction of Antarctica
I worked there in 1989-90 and I've always wanted to go back. It is an amazing place that seduces you by its stark beauty. I hope you go back again some day. Petral's are beautiful. You've seen amazing things. Well done.

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