I’ll give you a second to bookmark this page and go google the Drake Passage real quick. Here’s the synopsis: the Drake is the body of water separating Argentina from Antarctica (the newly coined Southern Ocean) and it is infamously, notoriously violent. It takes at least two days to traverse the Drake by standard ship and EVERYONE was aghast that I had brought no motion sickness medication with me, neither did I plan to take any (I don’t get seasick and I really didn’t think it would be THAT bad). By the time our group arrived in Ushuaia for the few hours of free time before embarkation, I’d been scared into finding a local pharmacy and buying some dramamine.
Incidentally, I didn’t end up needing it because, as I said, I don’t get sea sick.
Plus the drugs just made me feel what I imagine a bad high feels like and I actually enjoyed the tumultuous rocking of the Drake. Which is weird by the way. But have we met? Because…
Anyway, on the way to Antarctica, swells peaked at 3-5 meters. That’s about 10-16 feet. But we were also dealing with an actual sea storm so it visibly looked much scarier outside than the numbers showed (see video below). The rocking was side to side, port side to starboard side (that’s left to right). To remain upright or in bed on the ship was both aerobic and anaerobic exercise 24 hours a day. My core, my legs, my everything, were working nonstop. I was eating buffet meals daily but still lost weight from the increased caloric output of just existing on that ship. Everyone was tired, taking sometimes multiple naps per day. I need you to imagine if someone much bigger than you, and also invisible because that exists, followed you around all day and tried to slowly push you down. And you couldn’t push them back or make it stop. You just had to keep trying not to fall forward. Or sideways. Or out of bed. I have been back on land for two weeks and I still feel the sensation of rocking or dizziness from time to time.
So now triple that for the voyage back.
I already told you in my last post that the boat was small, right? So what happens to smaller ships — granted, equipped with stabilizers at least — that meet wind at 40 knots (that’s 46 miles per hour) and 40-foot waves?
At 5 in the morning on the second day back across the Drake, I was shaken out of sleep by some entity trying to drag me out of bed. Oh wait, no, that’s just the ship intently attempting to dump its contents into the ocean. Contents being, you know, us people and whatnot. So clearly the prudent thing to do in this situation would be to get out my phone and start recording all of our crap sliding around the room (and me sliding in the bed).
Rewind to breakfast that previous day, oats and granolas were cascading out of the buffet. Crew members were escorting unsteady little women around the ship arm in arm. And then at dinner, whole tables of plates and glassware were sliding off tables, shattering. The dining room was completely electric with energy from the guests, some screaming, some of us laughing, everyone in shock and frantically grabbing for dishes or tables or whatever else was determined to make a run for it. The servers froze in place while steadying their loads, feet planted wide. Me, with my phone recording, my travel friend across from me yelling at me to put the camera down and hold onto a glass or something! My group of friends sat at a table along the windows. Suddenly, the ship pitched high such that all we saw was sky, like the climb of a roller coaster. And then, like the pinnacle of a roller coaster, the part I hate, the ship took that slow turn over the crest and careened full speed down towards the churning, navy water. Our friend nearest the window instinctively threw her foot up on the glass as though that would stop this train. All I heard was “OH S*&!!!!!!!!” as we crashed down lower-starboard-side first into the ocean below.
So that was dinner on the Drake.
Conditions got so bad, the Captain actually had to divert our course! Needless to say, the next morning, there was no glass in the dining room. All plastic everything.
Back to 5 am though. This is 5 am AFTER that dinner service I just described. And the rocking, the pitching and rolling, if you can imagine, was worse. Side to side. Out of our window just sky then sea then sky. The way my bed was oriented in the cabin, the ship movement was rocking me head to toe (instead of side to side) so imagine someone aligning your bed on a see-saw. First your head is higher than your feet, then your feet are higher then repeat. Better yet, you know those pirate ship rides at amusement parks? Just put your bed on that. Perfect. So while I was having a ball at dinner, recording and laughing and “I can’t believe this”ing, there was a moment during the 5 AM episode where I was actually worried. After the initial shock of being dragged awake, recording some, and conferring with my roommate, we both fell silent in our attempts to either internally assess the severity of the situation or get back to sleep.
My assessment ended up thusly:
The ship had a very capable Captain. He was a gruff Croatian man of few words but he knew what he was doing and had been a Captain for many years. Sometimes the bridge of the ship was open to guests. I’d gone in there to watch the operations but mostly to gaze out at the open sea through the panoramic windows across the front of the bridge. You could see the whole ocean from up there and I gazed out wondering where we’d go next. Wondering, not knowing, because I was not the Captain. I had no charts, I knew the destination but not how we’d get there, I didn’t understand the billions of gizmos and lights and buttons in the bridge. I just knew the Captain did. So at 5 AM, when the Drake was tossing our little boat like a toddler toy in bath time, I assessed that I could do nothing from my room but trust that the Captain would do what he knew how to do. He would get us through this Drake Passage. And so I went to sleep. My bed turned into my cradle and I let the ship rock me right back to sleep. In the morning, all was calm.
God didn’t stop the storm on the Drake. As such, He doesn’t always stop storms in life either. But he IS the Captain. His vantage point is the bridge. He can see it all from the bridge. Sometimes, He’ll allow us on the bridge to peek at what’s happening but even when we’re allowed a glimpse, we STILL won’t understand the full plan. We don’t know what the gizmos and lights and buttons do. We don’t have the chart or know the exact route. We don’t know where ice bergs are lurking under the surface, when a storm is due to hit and move the ship to a different course, or when a storm will even be over. Why should we, passengers on the ship, understand everything the Captain knows? How is that even possible? When this storm hit at 5 AM, we were on the way home from Antarctica. In our little cabins in life, when 5 AM hits and a life storm is threatening our physical safety, our mental health or whatever else, we’re often on the way home, we just don’t KNOW how much longer the storm will last. But we always have a capable Captain who knows all the things, sees all the things, and wants us to live. What can we do from our figurative beds? Pray, assess what actions we actually have control over (in this particular case: none), and then go back to sleep. Trusting, comfortable and warm, not-being-the-Captain type of sleep.
Even as I’m typing this, I fight being emotional because I am currently enduring quite a serious, and kinda literal, trial (a blog, or maybe book, for another day), the outcome of which I have just about no control over. I just have to do the little bit I can do and then wait. Before Antarctica, learning to wait and not over-plan, over-predict, over-worry was a slow and challenging task for me. Having now been on a literal ship in a literal storm in the middle of the literal ocean, no one can take from me the experience of recognizing the futility of my worries and the peace of trusting the Captain. If I can rest easy and trust a mortal Captain to navigate me out of a storm in the Southern Ocean, I can surely trust my heavenly Captain to do that and more. I don’t have to do or know all the things. That’s not how this God-human relationship is set up anyway.
I feel divinely spoiled that I got such a clear, tangible experience on which to hang the [to me] abstract concept of “trust God”. In adulthood, I have always had trouble implementing such seemingly rhetorical abstractions. Trust God, don’t worry, have faith, don’t worry, cast your cares, don’t worry. You see the theme. Now though, I understand how not worrying physically feels. All it took was a wee little trip to Antarctica. Nothing major LOL.
Seven days after I arrived back home, I received some news that tested my newfound life lesson. Ironically, I received the news on the phone while lying in bed. It wasn’t 5 AM but I did pray, assess and then I went to sleep. This trusting and not panicking or doing-the-most thing actually works.
So now that you’ve read through my initial sermon — hashtag Won’t He Do It — how about some photos and videos of my days at sea. I give you the Drake…