Latitude: -53 53.278 Longitude: -71 07.253
Sunday, November 1, 2020 started a little on the grumpy side for me. I laid in bed with the debate of sleeping in or getting up. I forced myself out of bed and then walked out my room to grab some coffee. Half asleep, I walked by a colleague, who said, “Hey, did you see we are surrounded by land?” I was surprised as I didn’t think we would see land until the next day. I rushed outside to see the impressive mountains that lined the eastern side of the Straits of Magellan. What a breath-taking sight! I find it very interesting that I get quiet and a sense of amazement when observing the beauty of earth.
Of course, after my initial amazement, I started thinking about the geology. Geology was one of my first scientific interests in my undergraduate studies. Geomorphology and structural geology were always fascinating and the Straits of Magellan had lots see. I even with limted internet, I found nice paper on the local geology (Diraison et al., 1997, Magellan Strait: Part of a Neogene rift system). Sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks all coming together in this region to show off the product of plate tectonics and mountain building. The added bonus is the glacial features that shape the mountains and valleys. All of this then leading to features that are driving erosion (waterfalls, rivers, and streams), which move sediment and nutrients down to the water to stimulate biological activity.
This research expedition has certainly exposed a nice range of the scale of science. I can think of think of friends and colleagues working on the massive scales of mountains, which does connect to biodiversity. On our cruise, we have experts examining all sort of small life from bacteria and archaea to small inverts looking at changes, at even smaller scales, in DNA sequences or even the movement of electrons through redox reactions. These small (molecular) scale changes will help answer questions relating to climate change, evolution, and ecosystem processes, which is equally awe inspiring. Today we depart Punta Arenas, Chile and travel back through the Straits of Magellan making our way to Antarctica. Yes, I am excited to see the picturesque Straits again, but I am even more excited to get to Antarctica to start sampling.
Dr. Deric Learman
Central Michigan University