Bobbing up and down alongside elaborate White Lotus theories on my TikTok feed is a portal into the dangerous waters of the Southern Hemisphere’s Drake Passage. For the uninitiated, the Drake Passage is a waterway, about 600 miles wide, that sits between the southernmost point of South America and Antarctica. Because there’s no landmass to temper the colliding tides, it’s notoriously rough, like the Six Flags wave pool dialed up 500 percent. There’s no way around it, so for the thrill-seekers looking to take selfies with penguins in Antarctica, the only way through is…through.
Initially, when I was first served the videos, I smugly thought I had found a cooler, more real side of TikTok. I had graduated from the side of the app that’s having people drink Pilk (that’s Pepsi and Milk) to the side that’s documenting dangerous adventures into the unknown. I was practically Jacques Cousteau. But soon I realized friends, coworkers, and randos on Twitter were all chattering about the uptick in videos of travelers venturing through the choppy waters while on their way to Antarctica. When the first Drake Passage video cruised onto my feed, I was titillated by the National Geographic-ness of it all. By the second, I was hooked on the hazardous journey through these waters. When I got my third, fourth, and fifth Drake Passage video I couldn’t help but wonder: I’m worrying so much about the Drake Passage, but should I instead be worrying about Drake making passes at underage girls? Just kidding. (But thank you for letting me write that out and yes, I ultimately am worried about it.) Anyway, my real question is: Who are the Drake Passage’s PR people and what are they trying to sell me???
Since I’m permanently suspicious that my TikTok feed is an intricate Truman Show plot and not just a computer algorithm suggesting things based on things I’ve already clicked, I can only assume there’s a PR team behind this surge in Antarctic adventure videos. Perhaps it’s a marketing move to make cruise ships more appealing to a younger generation? Maybe they are trying to cast a kinder light on the treacherous and deadly waters? I’m not sure, but considering that its reputation for wrecking ships and swallowing up sailors has been around for centuries, I don’t think they’re doing brand-damage control. Here are my other best guesses:
Dropping a New Album
Antarctica’s music scene is arguably nonexistent, save for the incredibly soothing croons of Underwater Whale Song Sound: Nine-Hour Version. Maybe the Drake Passage is looking to stir up a little drama, toss some people around, and spread the word guerilla marketing style that they’re a talent to keep an ear out for.
Covering Up an Affair
When a waterway is making this much of a hullabaloo on social media, it’s easy to get sucked into the whirlpool of it all. But as a trained media writer, I know that’s exactly when it’s best to pull back and examine the climate at large. What are we ignoring by focusing all of our attention on the Drake Passage? Has the Indian Ocean been up to no good? Is the Berring Strait warming up a few too many uninhabitable degrees?
Maybe by showing us the icy and terrifying waves crashing down on voyages headed south, we’re forced to consider that, despite global warming’s best efforts, there are still uninhabitable freezing places on the planet. So is Big Oil behind this? Is this their subliminal way of saying, “Look at this ginormous swath of the planet where there isn’t a dark money-funded food delivery service yet! There’s nothing to be worried about!”
Teaser for Season 3 of The White Lotus
The most timely explanation is that the third season of The White Lotus will take place on a luxury cruise passing through this deep sea locale. Will next season’s wealthy ingenue insist she and her lover recreate Jack and Rose’s final scene in the Titanic—only for her lover to meet Jack’s same frigid fate? I could see a young scam-tress seducing the ship’s captain as it steers straight into the Drake Passage unmoored. Maybe everyone will die when a 40-foot wave crashes down on all the guests sipping espresso martinis in the restaurant they eat at every night. The Drake Passage does seem like the perfect setting for a bunch of egomaniacal millionaires to get rightly humbled and search for God—which is reportedly the theme of next season. Without a doubt, if I were being slammed against my cruise cabin walls I’d recite whatever prayer to whichever god was going to get me out of there. Mike White has to be aware of how terminally online his viewership is, so he’s working with the app to sow interest early on.
Ultimately, we might never know and the algorithm will likely sweep us away in its rip tide should we ever get close to discovering the true meaning behind this uptick. But to my true adventurers out there, the ones deep diving into TikTok’s uncharted territories, never lose that noble spirit!