Tag Archives: Laurence M. Gould

Commuting to Work on an Icebreaker

There are two sets of scientists on this voyage to Antarctica. One set will spend six weeks on the ship studying the waters, the plankton, and the whales off the Antarctic Peninsula. They do this voyage every year, collecting a long-term data set that shows us how the region is changing.

We’re in the other set—our work takes place at Palmer Station, and we’re just hitching a ride on the Gould. We’re like commuters riding the subway to a job, except our subway is a 230-foot icebreaker and our commute is 600 miles long. We act like subway commuters: we pack ourselves into whatever spare space is available; we do prep work and planning so we’re ready to begin as soon as we reach Palmer Station; and we spend our spare time admiring the scenery outside.

Read on about our commute from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula in this slideshow:

A Dolphin That Looks Like a PandaKeeping Us on the Strait and NarrowAlmost Like Part of the LuggagePutting Valuable Time to UseDoing Science From a Moving ShipA Sky Full of AlbatrossesHalfway Across the “Fearsome” Drake PassageMidnight, New Year’s Eve

Note #1: See an example of a radar map of the surface currents at Palmer Station in the very first post on this blog.

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Welcome to the Southern Hemisphere

Although the winter holidays aren’t quite over yet, the CONVERGE mission to Palmer Station, Antarctica, has begun. On the day after Christmas, some 32 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and students said goodbye to their families, left North America, and flew down the entire length of South America. Now we’re all at the skinny tip of the continent, in Punta Arenas, Chile, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan.

Across the water lies Tierra del Fuego; beyond it is Cape Horn; and beyond that is the Drake Passage and Antarctica. We’ll be there in about five days. Now is the time to buy last-minute supplies like sunscreen, chocolate, and seasickness medicine; to try on our Extreme Cold Weather gear to make sure it fits; and to fit all of our gear and supplies onto the ship that will take us across to Antarctica.

Read more about the preparations in our slideshow:

Summer Night in Punta ArenasDo You Have These in a Smaller Size?Extreme Weather Fashion ConsultantsWhich Way Is North?Open-Air OfficeAll AboardEat Your Veggies—and Your FruitsA Lucky Ritual for a Lucky CrossingIcebreaker at Night

We’re now cruising slowly eastward through the Strait of Magellan. We’ll cross into Argentine waters and then turn south toward the Drake Passage, one of the most fearsome stretches of ocean on Earth. So far the forecast looks like fairly good weather, and the scientists are looking forward to seeing dolphins, penguins, whales, albatrosses, and other wildlife. While we’re at sea we’ll have little contact with the outside world—but we’ll transmit updates via a satellite connection to let you know how we’re doing and what we’re seeing.

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