I have been watching NOVA tonight on a program on Earth From Space and is about how scientist are studying our earth from satellite readings. One of the areas they have been studying is Antarctica and the surrounding seas. The 60th parallel around Antarctica is known as the Screaming 60’s by mariners around the world. The 60th parallel marks the Northern limit of the Southern Ocean and is 60 degrees South of the Equator. The satellites show how the winds swirl around the entire continent and result in the most dangerous seas on earth. Because there are no land masses to slow down these winds, they can reach 90 miles per hour and storms form almost daily in these seas.
I know this to be true because I have sailed (on a cruise ship) in the screaming 60’s. In 2003 I took a cruise from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Santiago, Chile and went through the Sea of Wendell in Antarctica. The cruise was 21 days and we could not disembark for 11 of those days due to the seas we had for 9 of those 11 days.
It started out on about the 6th day of the cruise. We were scheduled to arrive in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, which is about the middle of Argentina on the Atlantic coast, but we were not permitted to go into port by the equivalent to our coast guard due to the high winds. So we take our time to get to our next port of call, The Falkland Islands, and in between the winds and seas increase. By the time we arrive on day 8 of the cruise to the Falklands the seas have increased to 50-70 foot swells and all outdoor spaces are now off-limits to passengers and crew. The Falklands are a tender port (in other words we need to get into large dinghies that ferry us to port) so another port is out and this is my favorite part…people were complaining that the ship would not take them, in the dinghies, to The Falklands. Guess they were ignoring the fact that the 2,000 passenger ship they were currently on was rocking to such an extent that every single person looked like they were drunk as skunks while walking around the ship and every picture on the wall would sway off the wall 90 degrees. They could not have even dived into the dinghies if they wanted to (see photo above).
I was in a stateroom on the fifth floor of the ship and my porthole was regularly under water and then out of the water, then under, then out. The fifth floor! I actually filmed what was happening by bracing myself against my bed and spreading my legs out for balance. I need to convert that film to a CD. It was unbelievable!
I had a blast, but I did not get seasick like a good portion of the people did, including the crew. We reached the Wendell Sea and Elephant Island on the 9th day and we sailed on glass seas for two days. I recommend that everyone go to Antarctica if they get a chance, it is truly magnificent! The icebergs are enormous and are covered in pink from the penguins “deposits” of their food, krill. The penguins are like little bullets in the water and are all over the place.
Anyway I digress, my point is that the seas between the Southern tip of South America and Antarctica are indeed not exaggerated in their fierceness and danger. So I need to be a much, much, much better sailor before I even consider heading into these waters in a sailboat the size that I am considering buying. However, I will never say never. I actually want to sail here, but I will need all lot more sea time under my belt before I can venture into these seas.
See you on the water,
Sail Away Girl