This blog post was delayed due to the lack of internet connection on board the LMG. Am now playing catch up...
The whole blog thing was supposed to have happened before I left Seattle. Then the government shut down and the wind fell from my sails – for a moment there.
After two years of planning and a lifetime of dreaming, nearly two weeks into the October, 1st government shut down I was notified by an Antarctic Support Contractor (ASC) that there was no need for me to continue packing for my October, 23rd deployment to Palmer station on the Antarctic peninsula, with the National Science Foundation's (NSF), United States Antarctic Program (USAP). Got all those acronyms? My deployment would be delayed until further notice. The NSF would run out of money on the 14th and on the 8th, they announced that they would be bringing all three USAP stations into, ‘Caretaker Status’. No small task indeed.
The story is long and convoluted and frankly not worth any more of my (or your) time, but when the government avoided default on the 17th, I was hurriedly (and might I say unexpectedly) booked to fly out on the 23rd - my original deployment date. I got my ticket info 4 days before departure.
And so I packed.
Not without more than a little help from Zak who helped me gather my things (but mostly my mind) and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Punta Arenas, via Dallas and Santiago.
And so I was deployed.
As ASC promised, an agent greeted me at the Santiago International airport, there to help through customs and transfer luggage. A small office in the airport made the 12-hour layover tolerable and a few hour adventure into town, made it even enjoyable. After 36 hours of traveling I finally made it into Punta Arenas at about 1:30AM, Friday the 25th.
Saturday morning I made my way to a bright yellow warehouse with an equally bright blue roof at a secured port, where I was outfitted with my NSF issued Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. After swapping some things out, adding a few others, I am confident that I will not freeze in Antarctica. Pretty stoked about my insulated Carhartt bibs! Thank you NSF.
Spent some time wondering the surrounding neighborhoods of Punta Arenas (the southernmost city on earth), taking photographs and preparing myself for the next leg of my adventure. The presence of the two USAP research vessels (L.M. Gould and Nathanial B. Palmer) felt ever omnipresent as I meandered the hillsides above the city center. Moored at the end of a long gated pier, dressed in bright orange and yellow, they are visible from nearly everywhere above sea level. I was wishing that my Spanish were better (or perhaps existent is a better adjective) to talk with the locals about the vessels. From what I could gather, they seemed quite familiar with their presence.
Saturday afternoon was move in day on board research vessel Laurence M. Gould, the beauty I would be sailing on through the Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage (I hear she rides like a cork screw). The Drake Passage is the only place on earth where the wind can travel all the way around the world without ever touching land. Will be on board for 4 to 5 days depending on weather/sea ice conditions etc. and will arrive to Palmer the 31st or 1st , with one stop on the way at Cape Shirreff, on Livingston island. Eight to ten days to get to Palmer Station on Anvers Island, on the Antarctic Peninsula from Seattle, WA, USA.
All day Saturday the winds ceaselessly howled making it difficult to use the crane on board to load all of the gear needed for the various research projects it supports, along with the resupply for Palmer station. In fact the port closed due to the high wind speeds. Heard mixed reports on the actual wind speed but some said 35 knots with gusts up to 50 knots. Regardless, a walk down the pier may lift one off of their feet if not careful.
On Sunday, our departure time moved from 12:00 to 18:00, due to more delays attributed to high wind speeds. Hoping that by late afternoon the winds will die down for a smooth departure. The weather here can change on the turn of a dime, so we cross our fingers that the wind will subside. However, if the winds continue and a front comes in, we could have a wicked ride, through some of the most wicked waters on earth.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1158885.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.