Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sir Francis and the Drake

Photo copyright Lisa Anderson

Photo copyright Lisa Anderson

On 15 November 1577, a fleet of 5 ships sailed from Plymouth. At it’s command was Sir Francis Drake, who had the mission of plundering unfortified Spanish towns on the Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru. After reaching Puerto San Julian in Argentina, he decided to reduce his fleet to 3 ships and headed to the Magellan Strait. 

As they emerged in the Pacific a gale scattered the ships, one was lost, one managed to return into the Magellan Strait, and the Golden Hind was driven far to the west and south. He finally reached Cape Horn and wrote “...there is no main island to be seen to the southwards but that the Atlantic Ocean and the South Sea meet”. 

The open sea south of Cape Horn was called Drake Passage even though Drake himself never traversed it.  
A storm with winds of up to 25m/s was announced, it was to touch us as soon as we left the Beagle Channel region and headed to the open seas. We feared we would have a quite “shaky” Drake, just as the one that Sir Francis Drake experienced, but it wasn’t that bad! 

We could enjoy a nice and sunny day onboard, with lectures and a birdwatching session on deck 7. 

Photo copyright Lisa Anderson
Several Wandering Albatrosses were planning in the strong winds all around the ship, coming close enough for us to distinguish the marked coloration differences between adult and young birds. 

Adults have all white bodies with the exception of the wing tips, which are dark colored, almost black. Young birds are more colorful, they have some creamy patches on the head and fully dark wings, only the back of the birds is white. 

Some Black Browed Albatrosses and Giant Petrels were also enjoying the wind currents, and we even saw a White Chinned Petrel, a bird that is not as common as the mentioned before.