Thursday, January 3, 2013

Antarctica Expedition: Leaving Punta Arenas

Aquarium senior educator Jo Blasi is on expedition to Antarctica to study the impact of climate change in these areas and changes in the marine ecosystem. She will be live blogging frequently about the expedition, research technologies and marine life encountered during the trip. 

How does one travel to Antarctica? It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. The majority of people traveling to the continent are going to the South Pole, McMurdo Station or their associated field camps. These people all meet in New Zealand and head over in cargo planes. I’m headed to Palmer Station so it’s the ship’s life for me!

R/V Gould

Our ship left Punta Arenas, a small city located about as far south in Chile as you can go. It took over 24 hours to get here by flying through Miami, Santiago, Puerto Montt and finally getting to our destination. It’s a great little city to explore! We were in port only one night and that meant fitting in a quick trip to the city square. There is an area in town set up as a  market with trinkets, many of them featuring everyone's favorite feathered friends.

Penguin hats…cute and warm!

In the middle of the square also sits a large statue featuring Magellan, the intrepid Portuguese explorer who in 1519–1522 became the first one to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean (then named "peaceful sea" by Magellan; the passage being made via the Strait of Magellan), and the first to cross the Pacific. Part of the statue also includes a large figure of a native people that lived in this area. Superstition still exists advising travelers to rub the foot of the bronze likeness so it will bring you good luck and a smooth crossing of the Drake Passage both to Palmer station and back again. Needless to say I obliged and rubbed! [Jo isn't the first Aquarium explorer to touch the toe. Caitlin Hume blogged about this lucky charm before leaving to find rockhopper penguins in 2008.]

Foot rubbing for good luck!

Exploring time was cut short since our cargo had to get on the boat, including the luggage that had traveled with each participant. Everyone also had to pick up their Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. This includes everything that I should need to do my work in Antarctica: boots, gloves, hats, rain gear, snow pants and the iconic red parka.

I’m outfitted to the max!

The R/V Laurence M. Gould will be my home away from home for the next several weeks while I cross the Drake Passage and then journey down along the western Antarctic Peninsula.

The Drake Passage from the South Pole

The broken land connection between Antarctica and South America can clearly be seen in this picture. Thanks to this passage, continuous ocean current circulation around the Antarctic continent became possible about 34 million years ago. And the adventure begins! Below is a short clip showing my departure from Punta Arenas. Track the ship's progress here.

– Jo

All of Jo's entries will be cross posted on the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research Station site here. Track her progress on the R/V Gould, and learn more about the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research Station.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like you won't be needing a white-noise machine to sleep while on that ship! Enjoy!