Captain Bjarne Larsen, Master and Commander, Seabourn Quest
Making a difference . . .
Bjarne Larsen, the Seabourn Quest captain during Seabourn’s 2013–14 inaugural season in Antarctica, passed away unexpectedly during a recent journey through the Southern Ocean. The news of his untimely death at the age of 49 brings back the memories of an incredible voyage and the man who led us all through these treacherous waters. Captain Larsen was the often-unheralded star of this video looping through my brain. Although not always seen, his presence was felt as we encountered the shorelines, never-ending ice, and a sun that stretched from morning to morning. These images filled us with wonder, laughter, and more penguin encounters than one could ever imagine in a lifetime, much less a day.
To borrow a slogan from another passenger ship line, getting there is half the fun. Our 21-day journey began with a flight to Buenos Aires. My daughter Cecile and I joined 450 other excited fellow passengers who mounted the Seabourn Quest gangway at the cruise terminal. We were eager to begin a trip few people have the good fortune to undertake. Our bags had been packed with coldwater gear. Mittens, thermal undies, and heavy, quick-drying socks were not the usual resort wear found in most cruise passengers’ luggage. In Argentina, the January southern hemisphere summer gave no indication of the temperature changes that would shock us into the reality of the Antarctic Ocean as we sailed farther south, encountering permanent ice conditions within a few days of departure.
Months before, in preparation for the season, the Quest, newest ship in the Seabourn fleet, had been removed from service to prepare it for the always-dangerous waters of the Southern Ocean. The hull was “strengthened” to push the ice away (rather than to break it up) and maneuver through dangerous ice buildups.
Antarctica is all about the weather. The constantly changing winds, the subsequent movement of breaking ice and the underwater currents are always challenging. Every maneuver through the waters, every landing, every passage from one island or cove to the next becomes uncertain and is always…