<<< 29 March 1999 >>>
Greetings from the Drake Passage! The weather is clear, the sea is calm, and we are making great headway across the passage. Not too much is happening right now. We have been training on the various computer systems, the equipment we will need to check on an hourly basis during the trip and going over shipboard safety, which included getting in to our flotation suits and boarding the life boats. At some point, we will probably have a fire/abandon ship drill.

The only wildlife I've seen are birds. Antarctic petrels, white chinned petrels and possibly a Sooty Shearwater, but I am keeping my eyes open for an Albatross.

We slowed to around 11 knots in the Drake Passage from the 13+ knots we were doing earlier. There are huge black clouds to the west so it may get kind of exciting tonight. The weather map shows 3 storms lining up to cross the passage, but I can't tell how fast they are moving. Well I guess we are starting to feel their effect. The ship just did a couple of pitches and rolls that are far more pronounced than anything we have felt today. It will be interesting to see how many people are up for dinner.

The population at breakfast and lunch was quite a bit smaller than at dinner last night. This only holds for the passengers. The crew is always there for meals.

Life on the ship is interesting. If you don't lookoutside and the movement isn't too much you can easily forget you are on a ship. It is comfortable, neat, clean and warm. The only hints are the signs that say you must wear a float coat if you go out on the sealevel deck and that everything is tied down either permanently or with bungee cords or straps to keep it from falling. For example, the computer station where I'm working is in a big room probably 20x30 feet with 10 computers (Macs, PC's and Sun workstations) a copy machine, 4 printers and a bunch of other stuff. It is not really any different than what one may see in the computer center at the College. Look closely and the monitors are screwed to the table top, the computers are bolted to the floor, the printers and copier are framed and tied to the tables and walls. Also the chair I'm sitting in has no wheels on the end of the legs. In the confrence room and in our rooms, the desks have bungee cords mounted to the edges to secure the chair when you are not sitting in it. My bunk (top) has a substantial railing to keep me in. In the diningarea the chairs and tables are mounted to the floorand the table has an adjustable lip on it to keep the plates on the table. The table top is a non-slip surface as well.

The ship desalinates seawater and we have plenty. Showers are no problem. There is also a gym and sauna on board. I don't think Shackelton would have abandoned this ship quite as quickly as the Endurance.

There is a roll guage mounted on the wall next to me. Currently we are in the green zone, labeled "smooth" which swings 5 degrees left and right of center. The next zone is yellow, 15 degrees left and right of center and that's labeled "Hang On". The next zone is orange, 50 degrees left and right of center. This is the "Jeepers" zone. Finally there is red, 90 degrees left and right of center. This zone isn't labeled because everyone has their own terms for movements of this magnitude. I'll give you a color ranking on some of our rolls if we get anything worth mentioning.

Cheers, Dave Tewksbury

Sheckelton's ill-fated Endurance