Strictly speaking, the Falklands Islands (also known as Islas Malvinas Islands) are not part of Antarctica. However, on our recent cruise to the southernmost continent, it was one of the places our ship, the Ocean Endeavor, visited. In fact we made three different stops—at New Island, West Point Island, and Stanley.
Not, though, until we had spent one full day at sea. I found that day difficult; I was worried that I would get seasick. Perhaps this was fueled by the many sailors’ tales that I grew up reading about the Drake Passage (named after British Explorer Francis Drake), which is still considered by many to be the roughest stretch of water in the world.
Hearing the weather forecasts each night, did not ease my concerns. At one briefing, we learned about the Beaufort Wind Scale—(developed in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort, U.K. Royal Navy), which rates wind forces on a scale of 0-12. Zero indicates that the water is as smooth as glass; twelve is a hurricane with winds 64 knots and waves over 45 ft high. The reports indicated we would be experiencing seas in the 6-8 range—”strong breeze, near gale, or gale.”
It was suggested that we keep any heavy objects in our room on the floor instead of counter tops, and that if we did not want to hear objects in the drawers rolling around, that we stuff objects around them. One of the activities’ crew members said that he had been in seas so violent that he had taken his mattress off the bed and put it on the floor.
I noticed that the chairs in the dining room had been bolted to the floor.
But it seemed as if I was the only person worried about the motion of the ship; many of my shipmates appeared totally unconcerned about the ship’s bobbing up and down, side to side, and lurching. Those who were transfixed with the abundant bird life were rewarded with sightings of albatross and petrol ((and occasionally spouting humpback whales and dolphins).
Part of the problem was that my doctor had refused to prescribe medication—asserting that such meds were highly risky to those over 65, so I had brought ginger tablets and wrist bands, but I didn’t have confidence that they would work. As it turned out I did fine with what I had, but my fear definitely got the best of me for a time.
Happiness is a zodiac ride!
Though the weather forecasts were sobering the first few days, it helped when I studied the maps and realized where we actually were in relation to South America and Antarctica. The Falkland Islands are actually NE of Argentina—we hadn’t even entered the Drake Passage.
We could have watched these Rockhoppers all day!
Things became much more exciting!
When it came to Days 3 and 4 on the ship, things definitely improved as far as I was concerned. We began to visit the islands by zodiacs. The Falklands were the first of the several stops where the amount of wildlife we would find was surreal. Not only did we see thousands of Rockhopper penguins on New Island and West Point Island, we were thrilled to be able to get so close to them. These entertaining birds have no natural fear of humans and so they don’t flee when people approach. The colonies were full of activity and the best moments were spent watching them strut, mate, sitting protectively on their nests, or feeding their young.
Please come back for more about Falkland Islands and Stanley in the next post.