Friday, March 25, 2011

back in Southern California

I arrived LAX yesterday. A long layover in Santiago allowed me to take a bus to the city center and have a look at the plaza and surrounding sights for a few hours. Very nice--I'd come back, though there are probably other places in Chile I'd visit before Santiago. Before flying out of Punta Arenas, I spent 4 days hiking in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine with my roommate from the ship, Mike. We did the so-called W. The park deserves all the praise it receives. Here are some pics.  Mike continued on to do the circuit and is probably hiking right now. After the Moana Wave docked at Pratt Pier for the final time, the AMLR2011 folks spent a few days decompressing in Punta Arenas. I had planned to hit the road ASAP to make the most of the few days I had to travel, but it was difficult leaving behind people I had become so close with (the late nights had nothing to do with it), so one night in PA turned to 3.  Here are some pics from the second leg of the cruise (several photos were not taken by me, so thanks everyone for sharing. Hope you don't mind my posting them).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Back in Punta Arenas

I'm back in Punta Arenas; AMLR 2011 has come to an end. It has been a wonderful experience (Paradise Harbor was a definite highlight). I have no deep philosphical insights to share yet. I fly back to Southern California on the 23rd, so I have a few days to travel around Patagonia and hopefully Tierra del Fuego.

I probaby missed the last few emails at my email account because the ship email computer was taken down sooner than expected when we came into port. Anyway, that email address is now dormant/defunct, so please email me at my gmail account from now on.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

crossing the Drake one last time

11:50 GMT, 11 March, 45�50.8 S 064�05.4 W

Once again we're crossing the Drake Passage. The conditions are what I
would guess are on the nice side of typical--sunny, 20 to 35 knot winds,
and 5 meters swell. In the last 5 days we completed our sampling and
closed down the field camps on King George and Livingston Islands. I was
fortunate and got two last opportunities to go on land as I was sent
ashore to help load equipment into the zodiacs at both camps--alas, I
did not achieve my goal of capturing penguins pooping on video. Most of
the 10 people we picked up at the field camps have been suffering from
seasickness and have been mostly keeping to themselves.

We are scheduled to arrive Punta Arenas sometime on the 13th of March.
If I only need to stay with the boat one additional day, I could have 8
days to travel before flying back to LAX on the 23rd. In that case I may
try to visit Ushuaia in Argentinian Tierra del Fuego as well as Torres
del Paine National Park in Chile.

PS I was a little off in my estimate of Paradis Harbor's latitude. We
were actually anchored at 64�51.9 S 062�49.4 W.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gerlache Strait

23:50 GMT, 5 March, 64�00 S 061�21 W

If you looked at the above coordinates, you will have noticed that
we (contrary to my expectations) did venture south of 63 S. We have
been sampling in the Gerlache Strait for the last couple of days, and a
wonderful couple of days it has been. Yesterday, after we anchored in
the very aptly named Paradise Harbor (which was the farthest south we
ventured--around 64�30 S), we were treated to a long sightseeing trip
in the zodiacs (I was bowman in one). It was a day or firsts for many
of us including me--first time setting foot on the mainland continent
of Antarctica and first time standing on an iceberg. As we drove around
Paradise Harbor, we explored numerous coves, icebergs (many of them
with crabeater seals sleeping on them), and glaciers. Paradise Harbor
is surrounded by mile-high mountains though we couldn't see the tops of
any of them for the clouds. We landed on a rocky beach at the base of
one of the mountains. We hiked up about two-hundred meters of a steep
hill and enjoyed the view for a while. Some of us took the opportunity
to urinate on the mainland (another first). We then glissaded down the
snow to the beach where a leopard seal was swimming around the zodiacs,
checking us out. It eventually decided that we were not good eating or
maybe boring and swam away.
As spectacular as the scenery is in the South Shetland Islands,
the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula is even more awesome--the
mountains are taller, the glaciers are bigger. The sheltered waters in
Paradise Harbor also allowed for very calm (glassy, actually) waters
which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. The diversity of
zooplankton is also something; we collected several species of
amphiphods and other arthropods I had not seen before.
We are now steaming northwards towards our last group of sampling
stations north of Livingston Island. I believe the 9th of March will be
our last day sampling. On the 10th we are scheduled to pick up people
and close down the field camps on King George and Livingston Islands.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


14:30 GMT, 2 March, 63�08.8 S 058�44.5 W

You may recall that we searched (unsuccessfully) for a seal CTD tag
while we were anchored in Maxwell Bay for repairs during the first leg.
The tag was found recently by Korean scientists based in Maxwell Bay.
Yesterday we were in the neighborhood and stopped at the Korean base to
pick up the tag. About half of us went ashore for a quick visit. We had
difficulty finding a place to land the zodiac because a recent storm had
blown a lot of ice onto the shore surrounding the base. When we
eventually found a path through the ice, the Koreans picked us up in a
snow-cat type vehicle (with belts instead of wheels--like you see on the
slopes at ski resorts). When we entered the main building, we took off
our boots and were provided slippers, Korean-style. We only had about an
hour, so we had tea and a quick tour of the base (which was very nice--
everything was top-of-the-line). Among the highlights was a hydroponic
grow-room (so they have fresh greens). 11 Scientists and crew will spend
the (southern) winter there. They also have an amateur radio station
that I hope to make contact with from my boat. The Moana Wave was
running short of toilet paper, so we traded some soy milk for enough TP
to last us the rest of the cruise.