Yet again we’ve come back to Punta Arenas to rub the toe of the famous statue resting in the square for safe travels across the Drake, to head back to our summer home in Antarctica. Currently it is spring here is Punta Arenas, Chile. The town is spotted with puddles from days of rain, and a somber gray can be seen in any direction. We’ve received our first sense of the cold having to stop back at our hotel for more layers and hats to stay warm, but we have to acclimate because it will not be any warmer where we are heading.
Traveling south was not as easy this time as it was last year. Travis and I are returning again to Palmer, so as experienced travelers you would think we would have this down, yet everything seemed to be out of our hands. As I’m sure several people can relate, our travel was riddled with delays and cancellations. Originally we were suppose to leave Newark, NJ on Sunday however our flight was delayed so badly that we would miss our connecting flight. So instead of spending the whole day in Atlanta, Georgia until the next flight to Santiago, a full 24 hours later, we were told to go home and come back tomorrow. While it was nice spending another night in our beds we were raring to go having already said our emotional goodbyes, we unhappily had to repeat the process again the next day.
Once in Chile our track record did not get any better. While our flight from Newark to Atlanta had arrived early, this was a curse rather than a blessing. After going through the dilemma on Sunday, Travis and I made sure we had an early flight on Monday so that we would not miss our flight to Santiago, yet this meant about a 6 hour layover in Atlanta. After several hours in the airport we were off again to Santiago. This flight was not as bad except for the lack of sleep from sitting in the middle seat in the middle of the plane and exhaustion of hours spent in airports. After this there was just one more leg and then we would be done. However our flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas was also delayed by about an hour and switched to another terminal. Once we finally arrived in Punta Arenas it was cold, raining, and we were all hungry and tired but relieved that there would be warm beds waiting for us. The third member of our team Josh, my boyfriend, is traveling to South America today. Travis and I are hoping that he does not have any of the troubles that we had, or else he might not make it in time to catch the boat.
The Laurence M. Gould (LMG) is the boat that carries us down to Antarctica. It takes us about 4 to 5 days to reach Palmer Station from Punta Arenas, however this year we have the pleasure of putting in the COPA field camp again which adds on another day or two to the journey. The COPA scientists were busily gathering and checking their gear this morning at the warehouse, a pleasure Travis and I will have tomorrow. It’s important after months of planning, ordering, and sending supplies down here to make sure that they actually get on the ship and not get lost along the way. After all, the LMG only comes approximately once a month and there are not any stores down in Antarctica in which you can purchase the missing supplies.
This morning Travis, Kim (krill scientist), Rex (research associate), and I had a meeting with AGUNSA to pack up our travel gear. I would relate the experience to being a kid in a candy shop, only you’re a polar biologist surround by really warm clothes. You want to grab at least one of everything, and as someone else finds a really padded pair of boots or a warm hat you want one of those as well. Now that we are all suited up, with more friends and co-workers coming tonight the excitement is welling to start a new season down at Palmer Station. More to come once we put in the COPA field camp and reach Palmer Station, until then we’ll try to stay warm and enjoy what Chile has to offer.