5 May 2007 (cont)
So it looks like I left off with us leaving Santiago. When I heard that I was going to Antarctica and going through our office in Punta Arenas (PA), If figured we'd be on some little prop plane. Turns out it was an Airbus A320. A decent sized plane with 6 seats per row. I'd look it up and give exact numbers, but the Internet connection at the hotel is still broken. I'm typing this up in my hotel again to send out from the office, which is actually called the 'warehouse' by the people here. The warehouse is definitely far bigger than the office, so I guess that makes sense. Anyway, the flight was very nice since the travel people in our office put us on the left side of the plane all the way down. We had a great view of the Andes all the way to Punta Arenas. They are pretty dramatic as they are extremely tall and relatively close to the coast. There were a lot of snow covered volcanoes of various shapes and sizes. Chris took a lot of pictures that I'll link to soon. Our flight had one stop about an hour and a half into the flight at Puerto Montt which is a town about halfway between Santiago and Punta Arenas. There were not a lot of trees and it was like a high alpine meadow with shrubs and tundra like vegetation. There were only two gates at the airport and only one had a jetway. Most of the people got off the plane and 5 got on. We were soon on the last leg of the air portion of the journey.
The last leg was definitely the most interesting. The landscape of Patagonia was very impressive. A lot of rock and snow. There was a particularly stunning part called Torres del Paine. I imagine that is even better from the ground. We saw the first glaciers that feed into large alpine lakes complete with icebergs. The last part seemed to pass very quickly as we spent the entire time watching the terrain below. I believe we arrived in PA about 1430. This airport was 50% bigger than the one in Puerto Montt as it had 3 gates. After we collected our bags, we went left the baggage claim area and looked for the Agunsa agent that was supposed to meet us there. Turns out our flight was a bit early and they hadn't arrived yet. They arrived in about 5 or 10 minutes. We were met by Juanita and Davies(?) who loaded us into a minivan to take us to the hotel. The airport turned out to be about 20 minutes outside of town. The terrain here was very similar to that around Puerto Montt and is pretty much treeless. There are trees on the mountains outside of town, but there were very few elsewhere. Our hotel is the Jose Nogueira. Not sure how old it is, but I'm guessing the early 1900's. The room is decent, but small. With the bathroom, it's just a bit bigger than Abby's room.
Since we still had some time, we decided to walk down to the dock and warehouse. We were given some basic directions which turned out to be enough. We walked down about 4 blocks, took a left and walked about two more. Juanita had given us some documents about our trip and an access card that allowed us to enter the dock. We saw the the Nathaniel B. Palmer (aka NBP, Nattie B, or Nasty B) was at the pier, so we walked down and took some picture because the lighting was pretty good. We went to the warehouse met everyone in the office, got a brief tour, and met Paul Huckins and John Evans (more on him later). I knew Paul from the office in Denver and he told us to come by the ship around 0830 tomorrow. Then he'd get us on board and show us around. We went back to the hotel to get some dinner. Turns out the restaurant in the hotel didn't open until 2000, so we went to the bar. We ordered a couple of cervezas and a tried to order some stuff from the bar to eat. No one there really spoke any English so we fumbled with words and ended up with some kind of beef sandwiches and mini empanadas. The food wasn't bad, so we ate and went upstairs to go to bed.
6 May 2007
We got up, had breakfast, and went to ship. We went to the guard shack and Vladimir, the 'guard', called Paul and had him come down to check us in. Paul gave us a pretty full tour of the ship except the engine room which is restricted due to homeland security. We are still working on getting a tour of it though. The ship has something like 6 decks and is pretty nice. There is a gym, sauna, movie room with big recliners, a bunch of different science rooms, the computer and server rooms, sleeping quarters, a medical clinic with 3 or 4 beds, etc. It's like a little floating city and bigger than I expected.
At this rate, I'll never catch up. I'll try and be more brief on the next installment to get caught up.