Latitude 53 10.2100S Longitude 70 54.3983W (Punta Arenas, Chile)
Since we boarded the RV/IB Nathanial B. Palmer 43 days ago, we steamed south and arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile, a quaint South American city that originally served as a port of call for tourists and ships, particularly prior to the opening of the Panama Canal. Since then, it has gone through some changes but now, for us, it serves as a hub for refueling, resupply, and getting stores for our upcoming science from the warehouse here in Punta Arenas.
Turns out, this whole endeavor is quite a logistical feat. Fuel, for example: we took on approximately 375,000 gallons of gas. This took about 17 hours to complete at the fuel pier. We’re spending the rest of this week at the resupply pier. The Marine Technicians and Marine Lab Technicians are making sure all of our science equipment and supplies are on the ship and are ready for us to use once we get to Antarctica. This includes all of our lab equipment and the nets, trawls, and collection gear we will be using. Other ship personnel are loading our food and other supplies to keep us well fed and happy (we’ve been unbelievably lucky throughout our long transit to get here…the crew have taken really good care of us…more on that in another blog!).
Additionally, one other step of this port call is for us to get our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear necessary for working in the Antarctic. During our transit down, we sent in sizes/measurements etc. to “order” the gear we will need…this includes deck boots, waterproof bibs, the all important rubber gloves and warm glove liners, and, among other things, “Big Red.” “Big Red” is the characteristic giant red parka that is issued upon request to scientists working in the U.S. Antarctic Program. This coat is unbelievably warm, possibly the most amazing coat I will ever have the opportunity to wear. There are some that hypothesize that it is so warm because it’s filled with unicorn fur. While this is questionable, it really is an amazing garment and part of the Antarctic experience.
All of these logistical issues are no small feat. Each is critical to allow us to safely complete our scientific mission in the Southern Ocean. We will leave here on Sunday or Monday and begin our journey through the Drake Passage to our first field sites. One thing we can be assured of is that the crew of the ship has us ready to go.
Dr. Andrew Mahon
Central Michigan University