Passage Home

MUSIC: "The Knife Edge" by Richard Thompson

On our last day the weather turned foul and heavy clouds rolled in.

On the morning of Sunday, January 23, we sailed by Smith Island but it was too rough to take the zodiacs out and too cloudy to see its nearly 7,000 foot peak.

This is a photo of Smith Island taken from the warmth of the observation lounge.

A big storm was rolling through the Drake Passage, and we were scheduled to sail right through the center of it on our way back to Ushuaia. The captain decided it would be safer to leave a day earlier so we would have the time to sail around the back of the storm, and also to sail at a reduced speed. (Photo by Polar Star staff.)

Although we avoided the worst of the storm, we still had 30 foot seas. It was like this for three days. Non stop. (Photo by Polar Star staff.)

This is the bow of the ship... (Photo by Polar Star staff>)

...plowing through the waves we battled while crossing the passage. Passengers weren't allowed to go outside, except on the protected aft deck. Whenever we moved about the ship we had to hold on to walls, railings, and even the ceiling. Several people were thrown from their chairs. Meals were particularly difficult: our daily soup could no longer be served, carrying plates from the buffet to the tables was a challenge, and during one especially steep wave we could all hear a loud crash coming from the kitchen. (Photo by Polar Star staff.)

Because we had skirted around the back end of the storm, we approached the Beagle Channel from the west; therefore, we did sail "Round the Horn." This is the closest we got to Cape Horn.

And finally... back to the Beagle Channel. What a relief!

Returning to Ushuaia the morning of Wednesday, January 26...


At dock, when we returned to Ushuaia, were several cruise ships about to leave for Antarctica. Both of these pictured here were much larger than the Polar Star.


Patrick and Christine saying goodbye to staff members Alistair, Lori, Lorraine, and Chris. The staff had a few hours to spend onshore before picking up a new set of passengers that same afternoon.

Wesley, Marco, Kevin and Syger.

On the docks.

POSTSCRIPT: Less than one week after our group disembarked from the Polar Star, the ship hit a rock and breached her outer hull. The new passengers had to be discharged on the South Shetland Islands and were subsequently taken aboard other cruise ships to get back to Ushuaia.

The Polar Star did make it back to Ushuaia, but the damage was extensive enough that she had to be taken out of commission for the rest of the season.


8 Responses to Passage Home

  1. Ramona Cavasin says:

    Breathtaking, stirring, incredible and sublime. Thank you for sharing your trip with me. I felt like somehow I was there as well.

  2. Denise Landis says:

    What a great recounting of your trip! The music is a terrific addition, it really sets the mood. Brava!!!!!!

  3. Lisa Hoffman says:

    FEEEEEnominal! Thank-you for sharing your trip & doing such a superb job of it!!! Beautiful—What an adventure it must have been!!

  4. Cille Marvin says:

    Wow! What an incredible journey and fantastic journaling!
    The music and pictures were amazing. Thank you for taking us with you because that is what you achieved with this site.

  5. Larry Paoletti says:

    Kudos for assembling this lasting memory of your adventure. Also, as a WP user, I know that it took some time to create this site, so another round of applause.

  6. JudithAnne Henderson says:

    what a small world! I came across this posting of yours and realized that I was on this very same trip. My brother, Dr. Wil Henderson was the ship’s doctor for the trip and I was with him for this particular trip. The next trip when the Polar Star hit the rocks, he was still on board with his wife, Hilary, who boarded as I left. They managed to communicate with me during the anxious moments when the ship hit the rocks and their time until they were “rescued”. This trip will remain one of the highlights of my life!

    • Hi there, Yes I remember you! Of course everyone knew who the doc was… and his sister. We were so so sorry to hear about what happened to the Polar Star, as in my opinion it was one of the best ships down there… not too big, not too small, really rugged but so very comfortable and with a terrific staff and delicious food! My memory was that there was only one other ship I saw that compared, physically, to ours. I was glad to hear no one was hurt during the accident. How does a ship with sonar hit a rock? My understanding was that there was no storm, so…? On occasion I still do a google search to see what became of the Polar Star, hoping that she was repaired and put back into service. I agree, that trip was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever done. Great to hear from you. Thanks for writing!

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