The Mission
The Place
The Team
The Ship

Dispatches Departure Week 01 Week 02 Week 03 Week 04 Week 05 Week 06 Return

Dispatch 01

Bow to stern, the Nathaniel B. Palmer and Laurence M. Gould at dock in Punta Arenas, Chile. On the aft deck of the Gould, MOCNESS equipment is fitted for use on the SOGLOBEC science cruise.

Photo Gallery >>

Photograph by Mark Christmas

360º Image

  • The Departure From Punta Arenas, Chile

    (Get iPIX Player)

  • 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 I’ve 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. We’ll 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 Minnesota–Twin Cities, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of Nevada Desert Research Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Tennessee–Knoxville, 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 Wisconsin–Madison—just to name a few—will 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. We’ve 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 they’re up to. It’s going to be a wild ride.

    —Mark Christmas, 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: does not research or copyedit dispatches.]

    Back to top

    Resources & Links Classroom Ideas Credits National Science Foundation GLOBEC Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution National Geographic Today SeaLab: Antarctica @ Search Home Get E-mail Updates