April 24, 2001
Latitude: 53° 09 00 S
Longitude: 70° 55 00 W
Hello from Punta Arenas, Chile, on the Strait of Magellan. I arrived last Monday and in the week that Ive been here, my time has been spent mainly on the docks. The Nathaniel B. Palmer, the ship which will carry us to Marguerite Bay on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, arrived to join the Laurence M. Gould on Tuesday. The Punta Arenas dock has been abuzz with activity ever since.
The logistical coordination necessary to provision the ships for their voyage is extraordinarily complex and has been executed with precision. The Gould set sail Friday evening. Well meet it soon in the waters off of the Peninsula.
More extraordinary is the concentration of science that is packed aboard these two ships. They are indeed floating laboratories. Scientists from the University of MinnesotaTwin Cities, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of Nevada Desert Research Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of TennesseeKnoxville, University of South Florida, University of California (Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Diego campuses), Old Dominion University, International Whaling Commission, and University of WisconsinMadisonjust to name a fewwill spend the next six weeks studying the region of Marguerite Bay. The areas of study and the technology used will be wide-ranging.
The wind is whipping the strait into a white-capped frenzy that matches the activity on the dock. After two days of rain, the sun is out again. Winds are gusting up to 40 knots. Weve had a week with mostly clear skies, a rarity here at this time of year. We had word from the Gould when she was just about to enter the Drake Passage that she was in 8-foot [2.4-meter] seas with 20-knot winds.
We boarded ship Sunday, April 22, and were scheduled to sail on Monday, April 23. We are now set to sail on Tuesday, April 24, at 0800 hours. Everyone is busy setting up, testing, and securing their equipment. I asked Carin Ashjian of Woods Hole why everything was being secured so well, and she looked up from her work and said simply, Drake Passage.
She was referring to the crossing that we will soon make ourselves.
Monday morning at 0400 hours the alarm sounded, calling us to our muster station. A problem with one of the power supplies onboard, a transformer fire. Roll call, problem solved, then back to bed. An indoctrination to shipboard life where safety is the number one concern.
Come back to meet the scientists and crew and find out what theyre up to. Its going to be a wild ride.
Mark Christmas, nationalgeographic.com field producer
Have a question for Mark or the SeaLab team about the expedition or life at sea in Antarctica? In every dispatch, Mark will answer selected questions from readers.
[Note: nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit dispatches.]
Back to top