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Drake Shake or Drake Lake, that is the question!

When the Polaris Expedition Ship Captain announced we were leaving Ushuaia and heading southeast as fast as possible to avoid the advancing purple spots on the area’s wind map (below), we popped on our motion sickness wrist bands and prepared for a bumpy ride.

The Drake Passage is famous for having unpredictable and ever-changing weather patterns. The passage lies between South America and Antarctica at the convergence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This means that currents, waves, and weather patterns generated by each of those great oceans come together at the Drake Passage and can produce very turbulent seas with intense winds, rainfall, and seasonal sea ice. When that happens the high waves and strong winds cause a very bumpy ride for any ships in the area. This is called the Drake Shake. At other times the winds can be calm, the waves settle down, and the sailing is easy – that is called the Drake Lake. We were hoping for the “lake”, but when we looked at the wind map we saw a very high wind area moving our way (purple or red color). Current meteorological tools can’t change the weather, but they can influence the decision a ship Captain makes about which route should be taken to avoid the stormy areas.

So far, we’ve experienced more lake than shake – thankfully! Below are two pictures taken from a part of the Polaris Expedition Ship known as The Hide.

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