Posts Tagged ‘seasickness’

Waves, Birds, and Orcas in the Drake Passage

February 12th, 2010 at 10:44 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The waters in the Beagle Channel last night as we left Ushuaia were only mildly wavy, but as we entered the open ocean and passed the vicinity of Cape Horn, the southern most piece of land of South America, we encountered the much rougher waters of the Drake Passage.

The peak of roughness was around 3am, when anything not firmly fixed in place in our stateroom ended up sliding to the floor and our curtains opened from the tossing about. However, in terms of how rough the crossing can be, it wasn’t that bad, with swells estimated at only as high as 10 to 12 feet (3-4 meters). We were very happy to have loaded on up seasickness medicine however, and even so, staying in any vertical position for long (sitting up or standing) resulted in near instant queasiness. Fortunately, it was still night time, and being horizontal was a natural inclination for us (pardon the pun).

The waters had calmed a bit by the time our wake-up call came in (that would be Bas, who was ready for breakfast). I tried to eat a piece of bacon, but was too queasy to continue. The rest of The Traveling Richters had no such major issues. Bas, Linda, and I all went back to our cabins afterward to sleep until lunchtime – that felt wonderful and we were all doing pretty well after our nap and a nice lunch.

A wandering albatross, hundreds of miles from land

A wandering albatross, hundreds of miles from land

A southern giant petrel almost touches the water with its wing as it flies behind our ship

A southern giant petrel almost touches the water with its wing as it flies behind our ship

It was interesting to see that even a couple of hundred miles out to see, we still had various birds trailing the ship, including giant petrels, wandering albatross, and others.

During an afternoon presentation by Tom Ritchie on the various types of flying birds we would find during three weeks of adventure, the Captain came across the announcement system to tell us there was a small pod – two adults and two juveniles – of killer whales, also known as orcas. Tom’s presentation, with an apology by the Captain, was cut a bit short and everyone rushed to get their cameras and parkas and head to the bow of the boat. We spent about a half hour circling the area following the orca pod and attempting to get lots of pictures.

An orca with a black browed albatross in its wake

An orca with a black browed albatross in its wake

A closer shot of one of the killer whales in the pod we were following

A closer shot of one of the killer whales in the pod we were following

The mist from the blow of the orca is just barely visible between the albatross and the killer whale

The mist from the blow of the orca is just barely visible between the albatross and the killer whale

Three of the four members of the killer whale pod surface at the same time - blowing - and note the middle one has a missing chunk of dorsal fin

Three of the four members of the killer whale pod surface at the same time - blowing - and note the middle one has a missing chunk of dorsal fin

We were cold but elated by the sighting, and I know Krystyana got some excellent photos of both the orcas and the sea birds in the area. She said she’s planning a post of her own here with some of her shots shortly.

Krystyana and others on the bow of the National Geographic Explorer, waiting for orcas to surface

Krystyana and others on the bow of the National Geographic Explorer, waiting for orcas to surface

Linda, Bas, and Krystyana in the bow of the National Geographic Explorer during our watch for orcas surfacing

Linda, Bas, and Krystyana in the bow of the National Geographic Explorer during our watch for orcas surfacing

If you look at the GPS track in the prior post you can see a flag marking where we saw the orca pod and if you zoom in you can see the circular route we took while following them.

After we resumed on course, we were treated to a presentation on the “Winds, Currents, and Productivity of the Southern Ocean” by Steve MacLean in the large central lounge of the National Geographic Explorer. Steve explained weather systems, the Coriolis effect on currents, and climate and season issues affecting weather and ice in the Antarctic. Quite fascinating. And here we are at only our first day aboard ship, and a day at sea at that. I can’t fully imagine what it will be like when we start doing landings on the Antarctic peninsula in the next couple of days.

A few more photos from the day are here on Flickr.  A map of where those photos were taken can be found here.

<img src=”http://www.thetravelingrichters.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/20100212-001-A-wandering-albatross-hundreds-of-miles-from-land.jpg” alt=”A wandering albatross, hundreds of miles from land” title=”A wandering albatross, hundreds of miles from land” width=”400″ height=”198″ class=”size-full wp-image-661″ />

A wandering albatross, hundreds of miles from land