The FjordEco team arrived safely in Punta Arenas, Chile after several very long flights. Upon settling into Punta Arenas, the first task on the agenda was acquiring our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear issued by the United States Antarctic Program. How much gear do you need in order to work in the Antarctic? Apparently, A LOT!
We were issued a wide range of gear from steel-toed boots, hats, gloves to full insulated bib-overalls and the famous big red parka. Having multiple pairs of boots, gloves and all varieties of clothing for deck work or going ashore ensures that we will always have the right gear for the right job and stay warm in the cold Antarctic Peninsula weather.
As each science team arrived at the pier, they located gear which they had shipped to Punta Arenas several months in advance, and began work assembling moorings, testing gear and settling into the labs and our cabins aboard the Laurence M. Gould; our home for the next 6 weeks. Even 65 knot winds couldn’t stop us for long! After the short weather delay we were loaded to the gills with instruments, equipment, and supplies of every kind. The labs were bustling with scientists and crew gathering the final cargo and securing it for the potentially treacherous journey across the Drake Passage; known for the roughest seas in the world. The engines roared to life, the gangway lifted, lines were hoisted, a widening gap appeared between the pier and us. We’re off! The sun glistened on the water as cormorants fished and Punta Arenas disappeared in the distance. Even a group of Magellanic penguins made an (adorable) appearance! It will now take us 4 days to cross the Drake Passage and pull into port at Palmer Station, Antarctica.
Our vessel, the Laurence M. Gould, is an ice-reinforced, research and supply vessel operated by the Edison Chouest Co. since 1997 for the US Antarctic Program funded by the National Science Foundation 1997. This vessel is responsible for transporting gear, food, supplies, scientists and station workers between Palmer Station (located on Anvers Island along the northern Antarctic Peninsula) and Punta Arenas, Chile. In addition, it provides a platform for scientists to conduct interdisciplinary oceanographic research around the Antarctic continent, such as the FjordEco project.
The weather in the Straits of Magellan and along the Argentine coast has been sunny and warm, reminiscent of Hawai’i! Now, as we head across the Drake Passage, we have lashed all our gear down securely, donned our seasickness patches, and prepared for rough weather. However, the forecast is good so we may dodge the storms of the Drake and be able to continue admiring the fabled albatrosses as they skim effortlessly over the swells.
Written by Amanda Ziegler.