The dreaded Drakes Passage

team mates

The whole team in Tierra del Fuego National Park. Little did we know what was ahead of us!

By the time 3:00am rolled around, I was also rolling around in my bunk bed. The ship was pitching and rolling so much that looking out of our porthole, the waves were completely submerging it at times. I would slide down my bed till my feet hit the foot of the bed, and then slide back up again till my head hit the headboard. Some of my room mates found it soothing, almost like being massaged to sleep. Most of us didn’t however. By the time morning arrived and it was time to get up for breakfast, one of my room mates was well on her way to being sea sick. I was still okay and feeling a little dizzy, I went to the bathroom as I thought that having a shower would perhaps make me feel a bit better. I got no further than having a pee. As I was getting ready to turn the shower tap on, a wave of nausea suddenly hit me. Turning the tap off again, I quickly finished up in the bathroom and made a bee line for my bunk bed, picking up a sea sickness bag along the way. Lying down and breathing deeply didn’t help…I would have to use the bag. So I joined ranks with my fellow team mate and was out of commission, confined to my bed with a knot in my stomach…my own sea sickness bags lined up on my bed next to me. Lying there on the bed between dry heaving and desperate gulps of water including a sea sickness tablet that didn’t stay down for very long, I wondered if we were the only one’s that were so sick. Did it so happen that we were amongst the weak? Not possible surely. One thing I did know for sure is that all of the women that had taken on this expedition were very strong and determined people. I lay there feeling like I was in the throes of chemotherapy all over again. I remember I kept on repeating to myself, ‘I so didn’t sign up for this.’

My two other room mates and fellow team members decided that the best plan of action was to go upstairs to the observation lounge to try and prevent themselves from falling into the same sea sickness pit. I would’ve done exactly the same thing, but one of them came back down again and took on the role of Florence Nightingale. She went around to all the team members cabins, handing out sea sickness bags and working with the onboard doctor, eventually handing out medicated sea sickness patches which were like small round plasters that were placed on the skin just behind the ear. What a life saver this plaster was and what a life saver my team mate was! She really came through for us.

As the medication started to kick in and I began to feel better which was about 2 hours afterwards, I decided that I would attempt to get up, pull myself together and try to make it upstairs to the observation lounge. The first couple of times, I made it to the base of the first of three flights of stairs I’d have to negotiate to get there and then turned back around and headed back to my bunk bed with my tail between my legs realizing that I wasn’t ready yet. Eventually 4 hours later, I got to the base of the 1st flight and felt I could make it. I started up, but the ship was still being thrown about by the waves and that was when I very quickly realized what the banisters on all the staircases were for. These staircases were very steep… steeper than fire escapes and I clung onto those banisters for dear life, nearly losing my grip at one point. If I had lost it I wouldn’t be lying to you if I said I could’ve broken something…if not my neck on the way back down again.

At last I made it up to the observation deck ahead of my other very sick room mate who was still in our cabin down below nursing serious nausea. It felt so good to be back in circulation again and it was light and open up there. After saying hello to a few fellow passengers, I made straight for the coffee bar where I made myself a cup of black tea and made a bee line for the ginger biscuits. After eating and drinking something I felt much better and was officially back on my feet again and rearing to go.

It turned out that my room mate and I weren’t so weak after all. 90% of the passengers, including our team leader had fallen victim to the dreaded Drakes Passage.

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