Antarctica, the big white continent, so majestic, mysterious, remote and so different to everything I had known in the past! Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have thought that I would be given the opportunity to work and paint in this pristine wilderness.
THE DRAKE PASSAGE:
My first day at work. I am still groggy from my 36hr travel from Cape Town to Ushuaia, a quaint harbour town on the southern tip of Argentina, where I have joined the ship. The Expedition Leader informs me that we will not be leaving today as the weather forecast predicts hurricane force winds to sweep through the Drake Passage. I am pleased to hear the Captain knows what he is doing!
This is the infamous Drake Passage - known as either the “Drake Shake”, or the “Drake Lake”, depending on the wind and height of the waves. There is no other way to reach the Antarctica Peninsular, we have to cross the Drake, a 800km stretch of open ocean. So with two crossings per trip, I will be traversing the Drake often, over the next eight weeks.
A few hours later, all the passengers have boarded, my art supplies are neatly stored and the ship is preparing to leave. What happened to the hurricane force winds, I ask myself? The Captain informs us that we can travel safely to the east of the bad weather and miss the worst. I must admit, I am nervous, but so the journey starts.
Other than nine meter waves at times, it is a smooth crossing. On board there will be many informative lectures by Geologists, Ornithologists and Historians. I am excited to see so many sea birds, including Albatross, gliding just above the cresting waves, in the wake