Drake Passage Southbound


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Our two-day crossing of the infamous Drake Passage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic continent was wonderfully calm. We passed the time at the bridge, taking in several educational seminars, and just enjoying being on board the National Geographic Endurance. The ship’s public areas are comfortable and generously laid out, never feeling cramped despite a full passenger load, and the meals were delicious.

We celebrated crossing the Antarctic Circle at 66° 33′ on the evening of our second day at sea and now have crossed both polar circles. An amazing 62 ships currently cruise Antarctica, but only four have the ice-breaking capability of the National Geographic Endurance and most cruise the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula. Few pass south of Lemaire Channel at 65° 8′ south, let alone below the Antarctic Circle at 66° 33′. The sample expedition map for our cruise didn’t even include Lemaire Channel, so crossing the Antarctic Circle was an unexpected treat.

Below are highlights from December 21st and 22nd, 2022. Click any image for a larger view.




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Enjoying the first of two calm days crossing the Drake Passage. We’re making 17 knots and the clinometer in our cabin (between clock and barometer) is showing no list.

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Attending an educational seminar on mobile phone photography before our second dinner on board.



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Seminars on “Expedition Photography” and “Sculpted Ice and Ephemeral Light” on our second day at sea. The latter seminar was presented by National Geographic photographer Jeff Mauritzen, who takes amazing pictures.

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Calm seas at the bridge. At right is a list of all the wildlife sighted so far.



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The panel between the two helm chairs, upper left, is packed with displays and controls. The multi-function display (MFD) near the top (and pictured separately at upper right) shows basic navigation data such as speed and heading. The autopilot is just aft of the MFD and the forward thruster controls are central just aft the autopilot and left of the four red emergency stop engine buttons. Central and just after of the thruster controls are the two rear azipod control that control both prop speed and can rotate the azipods through 360 degrees allowing wonderful maneuverability. The captain reports excellent authority with the combination of forward thrusters and rear azipods where he can reliably move off the dock directly into a 40 knot wind. The 3rd picture at bottom right is the stabilizer fin control panel that isn’t needed in these moderate conditions, but will be tested more thoroughly on the return trip.

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The display at left shows that three of the Endurance‘s four diesel generators currently are delivering power at 87% to 89% of capacity, with generator 1 on standby. The chart at right shows the fuel consumption and maximum RPM and speed for various generator configurations. At the dock, they usually only run one engine to power the hotel loads. Underway they usually use two or three engines depending upon desired speed and conditions. Under normal circumstances, they don’t ever need all four.

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Seminars on Antarctic ice, weather and nature before a late dinner.

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Dinner at our favorite table with a great view underway, and after dinner at the outdoor fireplace at the aft end of the ship. From here we get a great view backwards and it’s both well-sheltered from the wind and equipped with four patio heaters.

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GPS coordinates: -66.58953,-69.21964
An amazing 62 boats currently cruise Antarctica, but most congregate at the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, as shown in the display at left. The Endurance is well to the south, the second dark blue triangle from the bottom left. A few hours after the screenshot was taken, we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 66° 33′ south. We’ve now crossed both polar circles. You can see by how we are standing that the wind is pretty strong at the bow as we make the crossing.

 


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5 comments on “Drake Passage Southbound
  1. Carson Diltz says:

    Thanks for sharing such detail, as always! Interesting about the azipods. Are they only manually and independently controlled by the captain? Or is there some sort of joystick mode (similar to pleasure craft with pods) that automates based on inputs?

    • During normal cruise operation the Azipods are under autopilot control. The autopilot control head is in top third of that central cabinet between the helm chairs. On the pilot there is a large toggle that is used for slight course adjustments. When maneuvering in close quarters, the pods can be individually controlled using the two rotary handles in the bottom third of the central cabinet between the helm chairs. Each handle controls one pods direction through 360 degrees and the prop speed is controlled by the handle visible at the top.

      It’s a DP1 (dynamic position) boat which means the boat can be stopped anywhere and anytime, and the DP system turned on and the boat will maintain position with high accuracy. During the entire trip, the ship was never anchored. Instead the boat is put in the desired position for the days activities and then it’s held in place by the DP system. This allows “anchoring” very close to shore since no swing room is required. The boat is automatically held in position by thrusters up front and azipods aft.

  2. Farit says:

    Great, you and Jennifer are happy people!
    I also liked that you do not forget the technical part, and photographed the wheelhouse in detail.

    • Your right we love both nature and technology which, to many people, are in conflict but we enjoy both. In our round-the-world trip, we have seen some amazing examples of nature interspersed between visiting boat builders, a Zirconium mine, the Scania diesel engine plant, the Boeing 787 plant, a garbage truck manufacture, marine safety training center, and many others.

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