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Clellia II in Drake’s Passage

Written by: Paul Motter

Every time we see an incident such as the Clellia II losing an engine in a horrible storm in Drake’s Passage we hear the comments like “you’d never get me on a cruise ship.”

I just want to point out that in my article about the two Polar Regions online I do warn people that these voyages can involve rough waters at times. That was an extremely bad storm, but not entirely unexpected for that area of water, Drake’s passage.

That is the tip of South America – the passage that is known for being so rough even the captain of the Bounty could make it. Part of the story of Mutiny on the Bounty is that Captain Bligh tried that passage four times before he gave up and went the long way around Africa.

If you want to go to Antarctica you almost have to go through Drake’s Passage. There are now fly options where you can fly to Elephant’s Island and catch the ship three days later. but it costs a few extra thousand dollars per person.

Furthermore – if you are going to Antarctica you will most likely be on a boat that size (that’s right, a boat – it is hard to call that a ship). The reason is the Antarctic Tour Operators Assn has urged the ruling body not to allow groups of passengers larger than 99 people to land within the Antarctic circle. Furthermore, ships that burn bunker fuel (99% of average cruise ships) are also not allowed in the region.

So – I am only telling you so you know that such high seas are unusual, but they can happen, and that you are far more likely to be affected by them on a small ship – which is just about the only choice you have if you go down there.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from wanting to see this beautiful part of the world, I just want you to be properly prepared for the reality of the situation. Do have your seasickness medication ready. Keep in mind waters that extreme are very unusual, but they are also not impossible.

The truth is that there are just far more video cameras in the world now than ever before in history – plus we have YouTube where anyone can post a video. The fact is that things like this have been happening every few years or so on Antarctica cruises for decades, we just rarely got a chance to see it in such detail in the past.

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Comments

Comment from Dave Beers
Time December 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

I was reading a story about this and it said the passengers paid $9000 each for the cruise. They were from 50 to 85 years old which probably didn’t help matters since you’d have to expect some mobility problems or other health issues.

I’d never undertake such a voyage unless I was in good physical condition. To that end I’d advise a medical review and physician’s approval prior to going for anyone eligible for AARP membership.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time December 11, 2010 at 7:13 am

A cruise or a sailing on anything in the roiling seas or agitated oceans can wreak havockto both ships, passenger, and to crew.

On my second QE2 cruise from New York, Janaury, 1970, the ship encountered force 10 winds and voluminous seas. Furniture raced around the public rooms, churning the ships interiors as the waves churned the exterior of the ship. Sleeping was very hard, impossible, as the ship pitched, you were forced up from the bed, and then crached back down. As she rolled, you rolled out of bed on to the floor. This went on for two days, in an unnamed “perfect storm”. China and glass ware were destroyed. The ship was sea of puke. The ship had to turn around in one day to begin a world cruise. Gotta love the crew that tackled that feat.

While sailing back to New York, in January 1978, from the Caribbean, in the S/S Guieilmo Marconi the ship hit another horrendous storm, similar to the above forementioned storm. There were no facts announced on board the ship about the storm. The ship limped into NYC two days after the scheduled end of the cruise. The captain diverted the ship to Bermuda, not as a port, but to escape as much of the storm as possible.

Cruises that claim to be “Antartic” do not call there. The fine print in the brochure will alert to that. The boats that most ships use to take you to Elelphant Island are zodiacs, also used in more remote regions of Alaska.

These themed cruises have been operating for decades, pioneered by the likes of Linblad, Quark, and National Geographic Tours and Cruises. Princess and HAl have entered this market as well.

In the quest for more unusual ports of call, obviously there is a market, as cruises to this region point out.

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