We’re now on our way down through the Straits of Magellan bound for the Drake Passage. It’s been a long trip so far. I left Tampa on the evening of October 24 and headed to Miami. From there, I took an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile. Everyone traveling through Santiago on their way to Antarctica meets at the Palmer Agency in the airport to wait for their flights down to Punta Arenas. Some of the scientists and crew, including me, had evening flights so we didn’t get to Punta Arenas until early morning on October 26. After all that traveling, I was very tired and wasted no time getting to bed so I would be rested for our busy schedule the next day.
Punta Arenas is the town that our research vessel, the Laurence M. Gould, sails out of, so it’s a point of operations for the cruise. This is where we pick up our gear and get any last minute items we may need for our time at sea: lab equipment, seasickness medication, or a favorite snack. The first day in Punta Arenas was spent trying on our cold-weather gear. We have everything we could possible need to face the elements: different pairs of gloves and mittens, work pants, steel-toed boots, thermal underwear, rain gear, and polar fleece clothing. We also spent time setting up the labs on the ship. This is the same as setting up a lab back home, but we have to make sure all our materials are put away in locked drawers or tied down. Otherwise, everything becomes a flying object once we hit rough waters.
Being down here at the tip of South America brings a serious change in climate. Today was cold and windy. The gusts are so strong I had to lean into the wind to get anywhere, and even then I was being blown sideways. As a result of today’s weather, the whitecaps on the ocean were pretty big. Getting sprayed while walking along the pier was a sure thing. The days are much longer because it is spring in this hemisphere and we are at high latitudes. The sun rises at 6 AM and doesn’t set until after 9 PM. Once we get even farther south, there will be more hours of daylight.
I am getting used to life on the Gould. Most of the scientists and crew share a room with one other person. We sleep in bunk beds and all our gear is stashed in locked cabinets. There are three different labs that various people work in. Everyone eats together in the galley. When we get a break, people are usually hanging out in the lounge, where they read, write, check emails, or watch tv. There is even a gym and a sauna onboard, so I feel a little spoiled.
We won’t have too much work to do until we get to Antarctica, so for now, our science team keeps busy by prepping the lab, reading, or writing about our day and what we see around the ship. We were delayed about 6 hours today due to the wind, but now we’re on our way south. Tomorrow when I wake up, we should be in sailing past Argentina. In about 30 hours, we will make our way into the Southern Ocean. I am very excited to be sailing across the Drake Passage, which boasts some of the roughest seas in the world. I’m sure it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. I wonder how hard it’s going to be to walk around tomorrow and how I will adjust to moving on a rolling surface.