Three crew members are shown in a room with a green floor all leaning in order to stay balanced.

Huge swells on the Drake Passage require crew and passengers on the Nathaniel B. Palmer to sway with the ship in order to stay upright. The passage is one of the roughest stretches of ocean anywhere.

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World

The World’s Carolyn Beeler is riding along on a scientific expedition to explore the effects of climate change on the vulnerable Antarctic ice sheet.

But to get there, the research ship — a National Science Foundation-chartered icebreaker called the Nathaniel B. Palmer — first has to cross one of the roughest and most treacherous stretches of ocean in the world — the Drake Passage, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the east and west, and the tips of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula to the north and south. It makes life onboard challenging — for first-timers and veterans alike

Seasickness patches, acupressure wristbands and crystallized ginger are shown on a table.

To help ward off seasickness on the rough crossing, Carolyn boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer armed with seasickness patches, acupressure wristbands, bags of crystallized ginger and instructions to keep her eyes firmly on the horizon as much as possible. The multipronged strategy seems to have helped. Three days out, she says, they’re “keeping my stomach remarkably happy.”    

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World

Waves are shown crashing against the side of the ship and spilling water on to the deck.

Huge waves crash up onto the deck of the Nathaniel B. Palmer as it crosses the Drake Passage.

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World

Every couple seconds, gravity pulls everyone in a different direction on the ship. The hallways run uphill one second and downhill the next. Doors fly open as soon as you turn the handle, or become heavy as lead. Sometimes, you feel like you're being pressed into the floor.

Computers are lashed down aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer...

Computers, heavy equipment and many other things are lashed or bolted down aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer ... 

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World

Inside the ship, desk chairs are shown knocked over on their side.

... But 20-foot swells take their toll on everything else onboard that can move.

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World

icebreaker

Condiments knocked askew in the Palmer’s dining room hint at sometimes bigger mayhem as the ship pitches and rolls. “We had a lot of things crash to the floor today,” said Chef Julian Isaacs a few days into the crossing to Antarctica. “Mainly utensils and stuff like that… we were quick to pick them up, throw them in the sink, secure them real quick.”

Credit:

Carolyn Beeler/The World 

Related:

Antarctica Dispatch 1: Gearing up and shipping out

What Thwaites Glacier can tell us about the future of West Antarctica

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