Drake Passage & Shetland Islands
The thought of travelling through the Drake Passage may not seem daunting until you arrive. You forget that this passage brought an untimely end to thousands of people yearning to travel west in search of gold and territory, though this fact is easily apparent as soon as your boat sets off.
The journey through the Drake Passage takes roughly 48 hours, and includes the constant crashing of 30 to 50 foot waves. Even if you are generally comfortable on ships, the rough seas will test the strength of your stomach, so come prepared with more seasickness pills than you'll ever need. The most challenging part of this trip is not the daytime, but trying to sleep through each night. The crashing waves will make you feel as though you're standing upright when you are still laying down.
Near the end of the journey through the Passage, the lack of land within site begins to wear on you. You can already feel that the nights are getting shorter and the days colder. Off in the distance something finally appears on the horizon. Is it a bird clouding your vision? Reassuringly, it is not! That bump is a mountain. We are almost to the edge of the world.
The mountains on the Shetland Islands erupt into the sky while the glaciers jettison through the water. It is a wondrous sight to behold. The contrasts of the black rock on the blue ice are unreal visions of beauty.
Everywhere you turn there is another ice sculpture, and every one of them is more unique than the last.
The image of the glaciers flowing down the mountain and meeting the sea is one that you will never forget. It looks as if white clouds cascade down the mountain only to be stopped abruptly by an invisible wall.
The cracks breaking through the ice give them depth and character. Seeing these in person is as though you are learning life lessons from a wise old friend.
This experience makes the disappearance of these glaciers immediately apparent as they are slowly melting into the sea. It is an overwhelming feeling of beauty and sadness entrenched in one moment.
When stepping onto Enterprise Island, you are first greeted by a penguin colony. These cute little creatures are fairly predictable, and always a joy to find. They will follow each other’s paths and create penguin shoots. These shoots become entertaining to watch as penguin heads appear and disappear in the snow while the birds make their way up or down the shoot.
Standing in the penguin colony, you realize that all of the documentaries about Antarctica could visually prepare you for the guano that appears everywhere, but they could never prepare you for the staggering, pungent smell.
Penguins are not the only visitors you'll have in Antarctica.
- If you have difficulty with sea sickness make sure you take all the necessary precautions before getting on a boat to travel through the Drake Passage.
Photography Gear Recommended
- 24-70mm lens
- 70-200 lens
- 200-400mm lens or 2x extender for your 70-200
Get a pair of gloves that allow you to pull off the fingers. Constantly being in the cold (and possibly wet) makes it increasingly more challenging to get the shots you want.
High Seas Alliance is a partnership of organizations and groups aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the high seas. Their objective is to bring together international influence to strengthen high seas governance.
Currently only 1.6% of the oceans are protected compared to 12.6% of land. Protecting the oceans will have huge lasting impacts on the future health of our planet.