Getting Palmer Station involves a long journey, with many legs, that includes both air and sea travel. It all started on Tuesday April 9th, when we flew out of Portland, OR, via Dallas Forth Worth, to Santiago, Chile, landing there in the early morning of Wednesday April 10th. There, we were met by Juan, who helped us through customs and immigration and ensured we got onto our final flight to Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile. In Punta Arenas, we were met by Maribel and Lois who helped us load all of our gear into the back of a mini-van and transported us to our hotel, Jose Nogueira. As you can tell, we are very well looked-after by some wonderful folks who make our journey easier and smoother than it might otherwise be. Back to the hotel, it is named for Jose Nogueira, the husband of Sara Braun, and apparently they made quite the power couple. The hotel has a lot of character and the Taberna, a subterranean restaurant/bar associated with the hotel was, as legend has it, visited by Sir Ernest Shackleton. Naturally, we had to visit it too and we enjoyed our pisco sours imagining we were drinking it with the famous explorer.
The day after we arrived in Punta Arenas, we headed over to the US Antarctic Program (USAP) warehouse at the docks to collect and try on our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear with the help of a friendly guy called Paul. The ECW gear includes items like fleece pants, fleece jackets, snow bibs, lined overalls, gloves, snow boots and much more. Because we are going to be overwintering at Palmer and spending a lot of time in cold environmental rooms (more on this later – but essentially it’s a room you can set the temperature to and we’ll have ours set below zero degrees C), we decided we needed to also get the Big Reds – the red, down-filled puffy coats with fur-lined hoods. In the meantime, our tanks and other research gear, along with all the fresh food (“freshies”) we’ll have for 6 months, were loaded onto the vessel. We spent the rest of the time in Punta Arenas, wandering around town, making last-minute purchases, and enjoying pisco sours and hot cocoa (not simultaneously).
On Sunday, April 14th, we departed Punta Arenas aboard the R/V Laurence M. Gould. Our voyage took us first through the Straits of Magellan, then south along the coast of Argentina, around Cape Horn and into the notorious Drake Passage, which is where we are as I type. As Drake crossings go, this one has been really good, the seas haven’t been completely calm, but they’re not too rough either. I like crossings like this, it’s not a glassy mirror so you feel pretty legit, but you’re not kept awake at night for fear of being flung out of your bunk. By tomorrow evening, we should be at Livingston Island, where we will drop off an intrepid group of 5 leopard seal researchers who will spend the next 7 weeks at a small field camp at Cape Shirreff, Livingston Island. Once the Cape Sherriff put-in has been completed, we will head south, towards the Gerlache Strait and the fjords of the Western Antarctic Peninsula in search of krill!! More on that soon.