How to Survive the Drake Passage without Getting Seasick

Traveling to Antarctica sounds cool and all, but feeling seasick for days while crossing the Drake Passage, not so much. This part of the journey can be a big source of hesitancy for those considering an Antarctica expedition. Here’s everything you need to know about how to survive the Drake Passage without getting seasick!

Large waves with stormy sky above on the Drake Passage.

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What is the Drake Passage?

The Drake Passage is known as the “most powerful convergence of seas” in the world. It is located between the southern tip of South America, where most Antarctic expeditions depart from, and the Antarctic Peninsula. What makes this passage so unique is that it is where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans all converge.

Map showing the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Map of the Drake Passage, located between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.

On top of that, if you look at a map of the south pole, you can see that at the latitude of the Drake Passage all the way around the globe, there is no land mass to create any sort of resistance. This leads to notoriously large swells of up to 40 feet and rapidly changing conditions on the Drake Passage. It’s considered some of the most difficult seas to navigate in the world.

But, the weather in the Drake Passage is a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! Some days you get the Drake Shake, with large swells, and other days you get the Drake Lake, where the water is calm. You really don’t know what you will get when you cross the Drake Passage!

Antarctic expedition ships are designed to handle crossing the Drake Passage. The Captain and crew on any ship will prioritize safety, including delaying embarkation or turning back if the conditions become unsafe. 

Drake Passage Sea Sickness Tips

Whether you have a tendency to get sea sick or not, crossing the Drake Passage is different and should not be taken lightly. It takes about two days to reach Antarctic waters and no one wants to feel sick for that long. Here are tips for how to survive the Drake Passage without getting sea sick.

Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before taking any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. 

1 | Choose the right cabin.

When booking a cabin, consider looking for one that is near the center of the ship on a middle deck near the water level. These cabins experience less movement than those on upper decks and at either end of the ship.

I also find that having access to fresh air and a view of the horizon helps. Booking a cabin with a balcony is worth considering.

Forecast for the weather on the Drake Passage shared at the orientation on my Antarctica expedition
The forecast for my first day on the Drake Passage was grim, shown on the left.

2 | Get a prescription for scopalomine patches.

Scopalomine is a prescription transdermal patch that you place behind one of your ears to prevent nausea and vomiting due to sea sickness. I wore one of these both times I crossed the Drake Passage and had no sea sickness, despite the 33 foot swells we experienced! 

The primary side effects I experienced were dry mouth and lethargy. In some forums I read that a rare side effect can be psychosis, so obviously discuss this with your doctor. Mine prescribed me an extra patch so that I could test it in the safety of my home before I left. 

Pro Tip: Place the patch behind your ear 12 hours prior to when you need it to ensure its effectiveness. Immediately wash your hands after applying it.

3 | Bring over-the-counter motion sickness medication.

Both Dramamine and Bonine are common and effective over-the-counter sea sickness brands. Dramamine is known to cause more drowsiness and has diphenhydramine as the effective ingredient. Bonine causes less drowsiness and uses meclizine as the effective ingredient.

I chose to bring a generic brand of meclizine and took that in addition to wearing the scopalomine patch. I also took meclizine on a glacier cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park and, although most people on our cruise were very sick (the water was rough that day too), I felt fine!

4 | Wear Sea Bands. 

These acupressure bracelets are used widely for morning sickness experienced with pregnancy, but they are also useful for sea sickness on the Drake Passage. These should be positioned over the Nei-Kuan point.

Pro Tip: Wear the Sea Bands a distance of your three middle fingers from the fold of your wrist with the button down towards your skin. 

Be sure to wear these on both wrists and know they will feel tight. It can take several minutes for them to become effective. For additional relief, press down on the button for several minutes. 

5 | Eat something.

This might be counterintuitive, but eating something (literally anything) will actually help with sea sickness. If available, order room service or visit the restaurant and grab a roll or something simple so that your stomach isn’t empty.

A bed with wooden accent wall on board my ship in Antarctica.
Laying down flat can help ease feelings of sea sickness.

6 | Lay flat. 

Head to your cabin and just lie down if you are feeling sea sick. When sitting or standing your body experiences additional swaying and movement. If possible, try to sleep through the feeling of sea sickness. 

7 | Stay hydrated.

It can be tempting to avoid food and water when you feel sea sick, but staying hydrated is important. Sea sickness medications can cause dehydration and headaches which can exacerbate feelings of nausea. 

Pro Tip: Bring travel sized packets of electrolytes to help maintain your hydration!

8 | Consume ginger candy.

Ginger is a natural remedy to help with feelings of nausea. Consuming ginger candy, gum or even tea can help with sea sickness on the Drake Passage. I did not bring these but they are widely recommended. Some ships will have ginger candy available on board.

Crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica

Crossing the Drake Passage is truly part of the experience of Antarctica. Using these tips, you can avoid feeling sea sick and make the most of this epic adventure!

Related content to read next:

Antarctica Cruise Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

What to Wear for Winter Hiking: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

21 Breathtaking Winter Wonderland Destinations

Check out my Antarctica travel page for even more inspiration and tips!

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6 thoughts on “How to Survive the Drake Passage without Getting Seasick

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Ha ha, yeah I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The patches are a true miracle for seasickness!

  2. Josy A says:

    I had never even heard of those patches! This is really helpful! I only get seasick when it is reeeeally choppy, but 33 foot swells counts as more than choppy!

  3. This Big Wild World says:

    Glad to hear the patch worked for you too! I’m sure the Galapagos could’ve been difficult without sea sickness meds.

  4. Karen says:

    These are great tips for seasickness. I know firsthand because I get very seasick. But I wore one of the patches on my boat trip through the Galapagos and it worked like a charm. I just for half the patch and it was perfect.

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