Remembering Antarctica

It is a place that will rock your world. Literally. So when our 5 pm producer, Tom West, asked me to re-work a piece about the stranded Antarctic expedition ship, and use my 2008 Antarctic video, I was only too happy to oblige.

I had done several blogs, and a news story, about the group, Oceanites, which was evaluating penguin populations to measure climate impact on the Antarctic peninsula. This woman, Elise Larsen, was a researcher on our ship in December,2008, and she has parents who live in Pittsburgh, and married a Pittsburgher.

It was one of the first voyages, if not the first, of Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, a new, state-0f-the-art expedition cruise ship. Ice-strengthened, it was designed for the rough, unpredictable weather and seas of Antarctica–particularly the Drake Passage– the body of water between the tip of South American and the Antarctic Peninsula. My friend, Jaqi Conomikes and I weathered the crossing of the Drake pretty well, and the hurricane force winds that grounded another ship, hit the Explorer in the Bransfield Strait, near the South Shetland Islands, if I remember correctly. (I probably don’t). This is a shot from our window of the seas as the wind began to pick up.

Below is a picture of one of the passengers, Wayne Summers, leaning into 40 knot winds, which is about 50 miles an hour, I think.

But the winds became much stronger, and the swells were about 30 feet, so we were told to try to remain in our cabins.

Jaqi and I, show here in much more benign weather, decided to sneak outside to shoot some video, and a stand-up.  We could barely get the door to the outside open, and we had to hang onto the railings. The winds were about 50 to 60 knots at this point. We quickly shot some stuff and struggled to get the door open to get back inside, then watched over the next several hours as the winds grew to almost 100 miles and hour and the swells were up to 40 feet.  I think all of the 110 or so passengers on board had complete trust in the ship, and its

Captain, Leif Skog. An amazing man, he had helped design the Explorer.  And our expedition leader, an expert in ecologically sensitive Antarctic travel, was Matt Drennan.

He constantly kept us updated on conditions through the public address system. I admit, I was loaded up on motion sickness pills, arm bands, a little watch that shocks you, and ginger gum. I never actually got sick, just a little queasy. But lying down made it subside. It was an exciting time, and I came to understand how people can fall in love with ships. The National Geographic Explorer lived up to expectations in such an extreme test. So I was not surprised to hear that is was the Explorer that came to the rescue of the stranded Clelia II, whose power had been knocked, and engines disabled by the massive swells in the Drake last week. Here is a link to the story:


7 Responses

  1. This is the last continent my husband wishes to visit to be able to proudly proclaim he had stepped in all. I hope such weather condition you encountered is not the norm. Just passing the Bermuda triangle, Queen Mary II can not spare an ordeal that was likely but a tenth of yours.

    • I assure you. The Drake is not that bad. It is well worth it, and your husband is right. I have yet to step on Australia–only one left. I insist you use Lindblad. The National Geo Explorer is the safetst, stablest, and best crewed ship in the region. They also have the best naturalists.

  2. Sally, I thought your reporting on 43 Points was extremely good. You caught the reactions of the children being in awe of the deer and the teacher. A lovely piece. I really enjoyed it!


    • thanks so much. I am just getting around to answering these.

    • Thanks

  3. Sally, I enjoyed seeing the pictures of your Antarctic trip. I did not realize how HIGH the waves were and the strong winds . You were very brave to even go on the trip let alone going out on deck!!! I remembered your pictures from when you posted the story and just thought at the time how wonderful to get that chance to go on that trip. I guess the older one gets the thinking is not quite as adventuress

    • I am really not that brave. But it has nothing to do with age. The older I get, the less I care. I figure, the only thing that can happen is I die. I also keep looking for that wealthy environmentalist to support me the rest of my life. He isn’t there so far.

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