The Drake Passage

“Thus they had just crept over the line separating the ‘Raving Fifties’ from the ‘Screaming Sixties,’ so called because of the weather that prevails there.

“This, then, was the Drake Passage, the most dreaded bit of ocean on the globe—and rightly so.”


“In the prosaic, often studiously understated language of the U.S. Navy’s Sailing Directions for Antarctica, these winds are described categorically: ‘They are often of hurricane intensity and with gust velocities sometimes attaining to 150 to 200 miles per hour. Winds of such violence are not known elsewhere, save perhaps within a tropical cyclone.’

“Also in these latitudes, as nowhere else on earth, the sea girdles the globe, uninterrupted by any mass of land. Here, since the beginning of time, the winds have mercilessly driven the seas clockwise around the earth to return again to their birthplace where they reinforce themselves of one another.

“The waves thus produced have become legendary among seafaring men. They are called Cape Horn Rollers or ‘graybeards.'”

— Alfred Lansing, Endurance

About Ernest Shackleton

Polar Explorer. Leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917.
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