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.