DRAKE PASSAGE – A group of female scientists set to return to a port in South America following a week-long expedition to Antarctica were on Thursday preparing to cross Drake Passage, the body of water dividing the two continents that is known for its rough and unpredictable conditions.
It was the 17th day of the trip, and the 80 scientists and crew were gearing up to cross the Sea of Hoces, but the force of the waves they would encounter would not be known until the vessel was actually journeying across the Passage.
The team has taken measures in order to avoid accidents during the one kilometer (0.6 mile) crossing, a trip expected to be rougher than the journey going to Antarctica, when the crew had to navigate waves that reached up to four meters.
According to the crew’s estimations, the expedition was expected to face winds of up to 50 knots (100 kilometers an hour; 62 miles/h) during the journey home, compared to 15 knots on the way there.
Winds were expected to pick up as the vessel makes its way across Drake Passage, named after British explorer Francis Drake, which would make it almost impossible to stand up without falling over. The crew has recommended those on board stay laying down.
The expedition, made up of women scientists from 35 countries, mostly specializing in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, was part of the third edition of Homeward Bound, a project aiming to promote the role of women in decision making on topics of global interest, like climate change and sustainable development.
The goal of Homeward Bound, according to its organizers, was to establish over a period of 10 years an international network of 1,000 women interested in the fight against climate change, who will work together on different projects.
Among those participating were Costa Rica’s Christina Figueres, a prominent leader in the fight against climate change and female empowerment.
“It’s a unique life experience because it’s the most untouched place of the whole planet, it’s the place that, though we’re damaging it, is still the most virgin with regards to impact from humankind and it’s where nature has shown all it’s capable of,” she told EFE.
The ship carrying the scientists was expected to arrive to the Argentinian city of Ushuaia on Saturday morning, having set off on Dec. 31.
The group has made several stops at points in Antarctica, such as the Argentinian base Carlini, Paulet Island, which is home to a colony of thousands of Adelie penguins, and the United States Palmer research base.