Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dreadful names; wonderful places!

Yes; it was an early start, BUT we managed to land on Cape Horn this morning at 6:00 am! To many of our passengers this might seem trivial; not so to the crew on board Fram, who flocked to the car deck, trying to get on the Polar Cirkel boats to go ashore. They are aware that some years, we have not been able to land here a single time during the whole Antarctic season! Seafarers as they are, they also know that being able to visit this almost mystical place is a must (and our Captain was no exception).
So, stepping onto this southernmost bit of South America, to look into the vast, sometimes violent expanse of the Drake Passage from under one of the most photographed lighthouses on the planet; or to wander to the albatross monument and think about the many ships that have sunk just a few miles away from it is a very intense experience. Many of our passengers also felt the special experience this is. After the visit, Fram rounded the Cape, traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean; we thus officially can call ourselves Cap Horners, and could, if we wanted to, pierce our ears to, in pirate-fashion, tell the world we had successfully rounded this infamous nautical feature.

A further place whose mention inspires fear in many people is the Drake Passage. Onboard Fram, we know these waters stretching some 1000 km between South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula can be anything between two extremes: Drake Lake or Drake Shake. Today, the seas were rather closer to the gentle version, and we enjoyed a light westerly breeze and soft waves. Riding the waves were five different species of albatross, as well as several agile petrels, fulmars and other wonderful seabirds. 

So, despite its fearsome reputation, we were treated to the kind side of these temperamental waters.