While the footage may have been shocking, if you know anything about the Drake Passage, the foreboding, infamous waterway the ship was traveling through, you couldn't be too surprised. After all, it's one of the roughest (if not the roughest) stretches of ocean on earth, and while the Clelia II may have met some unusually ferocious weather, the Drake is rarely calm.
As it turned out, it was a wild ride, but thoroughly survivable and even sort of fun once you gave in to the absurdity of rocking and listing at fairly severe angles for two days there and then two days back.
OK, maybe "fun" is too strong a word. Yet, once you figure out the fairly consistent movement, it's possible to ride it out without too much discomfort (we did not get sick during the crossing, something we owe to the scopolamine patches, along with lying down as much as we could).
Of course, the fear of so-called "rogue" waves was always on our minds, it was hard to sit and eat, and the first night, when the ship had to turn quickly away from a brewing storm, for a moment I thought we were goners. I described my anxiety to a young Russian sailor the next day. He looked at me, surprised, and said thickly, "Drake Passage last night? Smooth like pond."
Clearly, he and I have different standards.
On board during our adventure, veteran Quark Expeditions team leader Shane Evoy told AOL News that while some passengers get lucky and get to experience a calm "Drake Lake," more often than not it's the "Drake Shake" that awaits.
"I've been through the Drake Passage about 250 times," Evoy said. "The Drake Lake effect happens maybe once a season -- maybe. Passengers typically come aboard with concerns, dying to know what to expect. And it's very unpredictable. These past few days are what I would call moderate. Trust me, it can get much wilder."
What's the worst Drake crossing Evoy has ever experienced?
"Last year, we had waves with heights of about 15 meters, full of ice, with ice chunks the size of cars coming onto our bow. Plus, 55-knot winds -- it was intense. But I always have faith in the ship I'm aboard, and I'm partial to a Russian icebreaker like this one."
Evoy added with a laugh, "Though I've been at sea for 16 years, I still get seasick. It's one of those things that just hits certain people, but even getting a little sick would never keep me from this magnificent waterway. You just have to respect it."
Some Drake Passage facts:
- The first recorded voyage through the passage was in 1616. The ship, named Eendracht, was captained by the Dutch navigator Willem Schouten.
- The Drake Passage connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean.
- The passage is named after the 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake.
- The Drake Passage played an important part in the trade of the 19th and early 20th centuries before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.