Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wanted: Cast Iron Stomach

After dinner, the lounge was pretty full with people for movie night.

Last night's feature was "The Big Lebowski". I started off doing pretty

good, then all the sudden I needed to lie down. I got and made it to my

bunk about as quickly as I could. After 10-15 minutes, I was doing much

better, but figured I was in bed for the night. My roommate had just

started watching the first season of Deadwood, so we stayed up for three

episodes until we reached the third disc. It was missing and in it's

place was a sticky with "I have the third disc, Phil". As far as we

know, there is no Phil on board. :(

I didn't sleep too much as I kept sliding around and rolling off my

side. I had also taken a couple of naps that day, so my body had taken

just about all of the lying down that it could. I can only lay in bed

for so long and then my insides seem to get sore. Not sure why, but

keeping my bladder empty seems to help. This was a no-win situation.

The Meclizine was making me very thirsty so I had to drink a lot of

water but then in order to sleep I needed to keep going to the bathroom

every hour which in turn made my stomach unhappy. Needless to say, it

was a VERY long night.

I got out of bed around 0930 this morning and went to the galley to find

some leftovers from breakfast. A few pieces of bacon and a slice of

French toast was all I figured I should eat. I'm writing this from the

lounge on the first deck which has been a chore. I'm in a chair without

casters and I'm still sliding around. Sometimes I have to hold onto the

table, which is bolted down, just to keep from sliding across the room.

The ship is two people short of maximum capacity, but you wouldn't know

it from the number of people not in their bunks. The ship seems fairly

deserted and for good reason. Speaking of which, I think I need to lay

down now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Drake Will Be Nasty"

We left Palmer this morning. The wind was very strong which delayed our

departure a bit. There is usually a traditional 'plunge' done by some

of the residents when the ship departs. The weather was pretty nasty

with a lot of snow and a 35+ knot wind so we figured it wasn't going to

happen. However, right as we were leaving the pier, several figures

emerged from Biolab darting for the pier. All were in their skivvies

except one wearing a dress. Most were my cohorts from the previous

evenings jump.

The captains premonitions about the crossing appear to be true. It's

supposed to get rough about midnight tonight. This might be my last

post for a bit as the whiteboards around the ship are blank except for:

"Please secure everything tonight. The Drake will be nasty."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Polar Plunge

Just a quick update.  Last night I did the traditional 'polar plunge' by jumping off the pier into the water.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there was alcohol involved which might have taken off the edge.  The roughest part was running the 50 yards barefoot in the snow to the hot tub.  I uploaded the pictures to the photo album.  I think they are still G-rated. :)

We leave Palmer tomorrow morning, so we have moved aboard the ship.  Last night was my last night sleeping on land.  For the next 4-5 days, my email will be back to:

mike dot forrester at lmg dot usap dot gov

The wind really picked up last night and it has been raining lightly on and off.  I don't think that I've ever had it rain while there is a lot of snow on the ground.  In any case, the captain said that the last crossing was probably the best in 12 years.  Then he supposedly said that because of unusually long string of fairly good crossings, he is due for a 'good shellacking'.  Hopefully not. :)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back to Palmer Station

Well, I'm now back at Palmer Station while the boat heads to the Vernadskiy Station.  We actually had a chance to go, but decided it was better to get off the boat for a few days.  I've added more pictures to the blog's photo album.  Click on the picture on the left to see them.

Much Better Day

First, my apologies for the depressing nature of the last post.  Yesterday was a much, much better day.  We were invited to go along with the seal team to do their second capture.  It was at sunset and the scenery was amazing.  When they do a capture, then always send out two Zodiacs just in case.  We got to ride along on the second one.  It was a thrill to go along and watch them do the capture.  Being out among the ice with the sunset lighting really made it spectacular.  I think even I took a few good pictures with my point-n-shoot camera that could make my dad proud.  We'll see what he thinks.  I'm sure there is room for improvement, but I think it was one of those occasions that he talks about where it is hard not to take some great pictures.  I wish he could have been there to take some shots.  We'll be back at Palmer station tonight and I'll try and get all of the pictures uploaded.

Also, I saw penguins, but they were so far away that they looked like little raisins in the high powered binoculars that I was using.  Still, when they turned towards the sun and started walking you could tell that they were waddling.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rough Night

Last night was definitely the roughest seas yet.  I seem to have kept my
sea legs and didn't need any Meclizine.  I did decide to stay in my bunk
for the afternoon and evening as I definitely had my moments.  The ship
was going up and down so much that I could actually feel my stomach drop
every now and then.  I think once I thought of it as am amusement park
ride, it wasn't so bad.  Except for a couple of days at Palmer where we
worked 9 hour days, Chris and I have been working 12 hours a day
everyday since we left Denver and it is starting to take its toll on
us.  As much as I've always wanted to visit Antarctica, the 'novelty' is
now gone because of the work and I'm definitely ready to go home.  I
have a feeling it is going to be a rough couple of weeks.  On the bright
side, it looks like we might have our first day off on Sunday.  Monday
is Memorial day which we might end up with off as well, I'm not sure how
holidays work while deployed.

We've left the area we have been in for the past few days and are moving
north a bit to see what we can find.  We saw a bunch of Crabeaters (aka
Crabbies(sp?)) yesterday, but they were either on small floes or jumped in
the water once the ship was near.  Maybe we will have good luck today.

Still no penguin sightings for me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good Weather

Well after last nights fury, the weather tonight is very calm. It isn't

cloudy for the first time in awhile. The moon and stars are out which

make it really seem the opposite of yesterday. It's still weird to look

up at the stars and not recognize anything. In any case, the weather is

supposed to be great tomorrow, so hopefully they'll be able to tag some

more seals.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bad Weather

Everyone was feeling pretty good after a fairly successful day. Before

going to bed, I spent some time looking out the potholes at the ice

bergs and water around us. It was amazing to me the conditions in which

humankind can create an existence. I was laying in my bunk thinking

about this before I went to sleep. Note to self:

Before going to sleep, do NOT marvel on the fact that only a foot of

metal, insulation, and paneling separate you from 1500 feet of 30F water

filled with ice.

Needless to say, I did not sleep so well. About 0400 I awoke to a lot

of thuds and crushing of snow and ice. My current bunk is way forward

and about 8 feet above sea level which allows me to hear a lot of noise

of the ship carving its way around through the ice. I got up and looked

out the porthole. All I could see was snow, ice, and a strong wind. No

water to be seen. Due to my train of thought before bed, for the first

time on this trip, I became acutely aware of how bad things could get.

I didn't panic, but I was definitely uneasy about being on a boat in

Antarctic and thought about wtf I was doing here. I went to the lounge,

which is pretty much where I've been most of the time when I'm not

sleeping. I turned on the TV and switched to the channel that showed

our location and outside statistics. It was -16F with the wind chill

and the wind was blowing a steady 40 mph. I flipped between that

channel and the one with the map of our location for a bit and almost

fell asleep on the couch. I went back to bed and slept pretty good. I

guess during the night the temperature dropped to -37F with the wind

chill and the wind was blowing about 60 mph. Glad I was sleeping.

During the night, they moved ship to an ice-free patch behind island to

protect us from the wind and to wait for things to calm down a bit. The

seas are definitely a bit rough which is preventing any more seal

captures, but all things considered, not too bad. I took some Meclizine

yesterday, but I'm doing pretty good today without it.

Another Night at Sea

The seal team had a good day as they tagged a Weddell seal which was a first for the entire team.  I took a lot of pictures which I'll upload when I get back to Palmer Station.  We spent the entire day in the fjord but had to get out towards the end of the day as the ice was starting to get thick.  They spotted another once we neared to mouth of the fjord.  They decided not to tag it as it had been badly injured by something and they didn't want to put in through any more trauma.  In order to put the Zodiacs in the water, the boat needed to clear out a patch of open water.  While the second boat was loading up, a whale decided to use the whole to catch its breath.  It came up so close that one of the guys could almost touch it and it sprayed one of the others with its blow hole.  I didn't see it, but one of the guys thought it was a Minke.  No one got pictures as it caught everyone off guard.  Still no penguins.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lallemand Fjord

We spent the day cruising around the area looking for crabeater seals
resting on ice floes.  I believe 5-10 were sighted all day.  Fur seals
are far more common as we saw well over a hundred napping on ice flows. 
We saw a few whales, but saw nothing more than their backs and spouts as
they dived for food.  Still no penguins sightings for me.  We traveled
by dozens of huge icebergs some probably 1/2 a mile across and the
terrain of the surrounding land is amazing.  Several times we were
pushing through a lot of pancake ice which is when the water is covered
by thin disks of ice from about a foot to 3-4 feet across.  I'll upload
some pictures when I get back to Palmer Station.  I'll also try and get
some video uploaded too from one of the other guys camcorder.  We are
going to be spending the night in the Lallemand Fjord which is off the
sound end of the Crystal Sound.  Our current location is -67 05.626, -66
48.350 and the temperature is about 25F with very little wind.  The
water depth here is 661 meters or 2168 feet.  It was a bit cold out on
deck today, so I've started using some of the gear that the NSF provided
for our trip.  Here's a list of the gear that I was issued:

1- Neck Gator
1- Hat, Polar Plus
4 pair- Socks, Wool
1 pair - Gore-Tex Mitts, Black
1 pair - Rubber Gloves, BLue
1 pair - Leather Gloves, Lined
1 pair - Wool Glove Liners
1 pair - Polypro Glove Liners
2 - Thermal Top, Mens
2 - Thermal Bottom, Mens
1 pair - Boot, Sorel
1 pair - Boot Liner, Sorel
1 - Hooded Parka, Gore-Tex
1 - Bib Gore-Tex, Black
1 - Googles
1 - Water Bottle
1 - Sunglasses
1 - Fleece Jacket
1 - Fleece Pants
1 - PVC Rain Jacket
1 - PVC Rain Bib
2 - Clothing Bag
1 pair - Sea Boots Steel Toe
1 - Workpants, Carhartt
1 - Parka, Carhartt
1 - Red Yazoo Cap

As you can see, they don't mess around.  All this stuff takes up almost
2 of those large Eagle Creek duffle bags.  I've been lugging them and in
addition to all the junk I brought, a large suitcase and a daypack.

Monday, May 21, 2007

South of the Antarctic Circle

We left Palmer Station late yesterday afternoon and we sailed pretty much due south all night.  The seas were the roughest yet, but I seemed have kept my sea legs from the last time.  Sleeping was difficult but not too bad.  I was probably sliding end to end about 5-6 inches and eventually found a good way to lay sideways that didn't feel like I was going to roll off my side.  Our current location is about -66 36.468, -67 15.415 for those that want to look it up.  The time is 0825 and still pretty much dark.  I don't think the sun will be up for another hour or so and will likely set before 1500 this far south.  Walking around the boat is definitely a chore.  I can't but feel like the ball in that game with a maze that you turn the knobs on the ends to get the ball from the beginning to the end without letting it drop through the holes.  Currently the temperature is 27F and -8F with the wind chill.  There isn't much ice yet, but we are expected to reach some soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Leaving Palmer

We have all of the work done that required us to be physically at the station so we are going to get back on the LMG for a seal cruise.  We'll be back to the station a couple of times before we head back, but we won't be sleeping on the station again.  It's been a great experience staying at Palmer Station, but I'm looking forward to going out and seeing more of Antarctica.  The seal group is going out to capture and tag Crabeater Seals.  We've gotten to know the group pretty good.  I guess they need all the help they can get, so last I heard, they are trying to get us on their permit so we can help.  I hope it works out as it will be a great experience to work with the them and the seals.  After today, I will no longer have Internet access and my email address will change back to:

mike dot forrester at lmg dot usap dot gov

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Until I can get mine downloaded and copies from Chris, I'll just point you toward his Picasa page:

This will have to do for now.

Marr Glacier

We took a break from work mid-day to climb to the top of the Marr Glacier behind the station.  They survey it regularly and several people a day go up for various reasons, so it was pretty safe.  The weather was marginal, but we had more than adequate gear.  We also each had a radio.  My guess the hike was about 2 miles tops, but it took a bit due to the wind and snow.  The view from the top was amazing.  Maybe the best I've ever seen in person.  I know I keep saying I'll update some pictures, but the problem is that most of mine aren't very good.  The low light makes a point-and-shoot camera very difficult to use.  Chris has a digital SLR and I haven't had time to copy the pictures he's taken.  Tomorrow is going to be all work unless the weather improves.  Currently the wind is blowing 30+ miles per hour and it's in the mid-20's.  That puts the wind chill around -7 F.  Not all that cold. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm in Antarctica!

I arrived at Palmer Station this morning. We have a lot to do, but

I'll send an update later. Also, I won't have access to the email

address that I posted earlier for a few days. I will have access to

my regular email during that time. If you are unsure, you can send

stuff to the boat email and my personal email.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Realization of a Dream

Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by Antarctica. The fact

that such an alien place existed and that life could exist in such

extreme conditions was just amazing to me. Although I could never

take on such an undertaking, I could connect with the drive of

Antarctic explorers to endure hardship to explore such a frozen,

inhospitable, wonderland of snow and ice. That penguins, especially

Emperors, beat the odds to survive on their own where nothing else

could, was proof that life can adapt and survive. As strange as it

my sound, I've always dreamed about visiting such a place. To

survive where nature never intended us to.

On afternoon of 15 May 2007 at a location of -63 41.465, -61 28.968,

I saw, with my own eyes, my first glimpse of Antarctica! According

to the map, it was Hoseason Island. It is not the continent itself,

but it is Antarctica. I'm sure my companions thought I was nuts when

I started running around looking for pen to write it down the

coordinates and map to look it up on. Chris had Google Earth on his

laptop, so I was able to figure out where we were. I went outside,

without a coat, and took a few pictures. It is barely above freezing

outside, so I wasn't out for long. I went back in for my coat and

hat and but realized the deck was a bit slick, so I went back in. I

worked for a little bit and when I saw land off the port side, I did

it all again. This time I put on my boots, coat, hat, and gloves so

I could stay out for a bit. While I was walking around, I saw some

whale spouts off in the distance. Just as I was going to go inside

to tell the others, a bunch of them came out on deck. The captain

had stopped the ship and told everyone about the whales. We only got

to see glimpses of them as they were about 200-500 yards off the bow

and kept diving. Then we saw some fur seals about 50 yards off the

starboard side. I stayed out for awhile taking it all in and looking

at the islands around us. It was near dark and had been foggy all

day, so we really couldn't see a lot, but it was enough. It started

to sink in that I was getting very close to realizing a life long

dream. A lot of my companions on this journey share this same

feeling of awe, but I don't think it is quite the same for them as

it is for me. As cheesy as it sounds, it is hard for me to think

about it and not get choked up a bit. Even now, as I type this, it

is very hard to keep my composure. I'm sure that the day I set foot

on land, will be one of the most treasured moments of my life. Right

up there with the day I married Layna and the days Abby and Cora were

born. That moment will be around 0800-0900 EDT tomorrow. I'd didn't

sleep much last night and I imagine that tonight is going to be much

of the same.

Almost Through

As I understand it, we are nearly through the Drake passage. Most of

the group, including myself, have found their sea legs. There are

still a couple that are still looking for them. I talked briefly to

one of the mates yesterday and he was surprised how many of us were

having issues as he said this is one of the smoothest he's crossings

he's ever been on. The food so far has been surprisingly

good. Pretty much your standard cafeteria style fare as far as the

dishes go, but a bit higher quality than most. There have been a few

sightings of swimming penguins, but not while I've been on deck. I

didn't sleep very well last night. It seemed every time I was almost

out, the ship would pitch like someone trying to wake me up. We are

making good time and I believe we should be at Palmer

tomorrow. Unfortunately, that is going to put us going through the

most scenic parts like the Lemaire Channel, at night. :( Usually

the ship leaves first thing in the morning on the return trip, so we

should be able to catch it on the way out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Has Anyone Seen My Sealegs?

Quick update. I spoke too soon. I started feeling a bit queasy and

realized I'd forgotten to take my meclizine. I had to lay down for a

bit and started feeling better. I went out on deck to watch the

sunset and the fresh air helped too. I had a little dinner and will

need to lay down again. I'm supposed to be helping with some data

collection from 8pm to midnight. We'll see how that goes. In any

case, trying to watch the computer screen makes it worse, so posts

might be a bit infrequent for awhile.

Tierra Del Fuego

I slept pretty good last night. About 0400 the seas picked up enough

to wake me up. It's actually not bad, just a slow gently rocking

motion which made it very easy to go back to sleep. I slept in until

just after 1000 which is the first time since I left that I got more

than 7 hours of sleep.

Today we are traveling along the east coast of Tierra Del Fuego, the

end of South America. I went out on deck for a bit to watch the last

bit of land that we will be seeing for the next few days. There have

been several pods of dolphins over the past day, but today was my

first chance to see them. They were black and white and spent awhile

bow riding. In a few hours, we will be leaving the coast and staring

our crossing of the Drake. I understand that it should only take a

day or so to cross the Drake, but I've been told that it sometimes

takes 4-5 when it's really rough as they have to point the boat into

the waves. Next update probably won't be until tomorrow unless

something of note happens before the nightly mail delivery and I have

some spare time.

This post was written at 1300 EDT 13 May 2007

Location URL

I still don't have a clear word yet on the posting of the location of
the ship, but I guess this link does.  Let me know how it works.


12 May 2007

A bunch of us from the boat went into town for one last outing before

we sail tomorrow. One of the local drinks is called a Pisco Sour. I

believe the ingredients are sour mix, powered sugar, one egg white,

and a local alcohol called Pisco. They are pretty tasty. At one

point, most of the people left except myself and a few of the Marine

Techs (MT). After a few Pisco Sours, some beer, and some other

drinks, we left there and went to a local hangout that was basically

an 80?s Heavy Metal bar. We had another beer and then we headed out.

The MTs went to their hotel and I headed for the dock. I didn?t

really know what time it was, but when I arrived at the gate, it was

locked. We were issued access cards when we arrived and we used them

to get access to the docks by running them through a card reader. The

place was all locked up and I thought I?d be sleeping on the bench out

front. A few minutes later, car pulled up that wanted through and a

guard came out to talk to them. Good thing. The guard looked at my

card and let me in through the guard booth. I made it to my room and

realized it was 3:30am. One of the engineers that I?ve been working

with at Palmer was heading back to the states, so I asked him to bring

me some postcards so I could fill them out for Abby. Juanita from the

office agreed to mail one every 4 or 5 days so that she wouldn?t get

them all at once. I decided that since the boat was leaving in less

then 6 hours, I?d better get them all filled out now. I went down to

the galley and stayed up for about another hour filling them out. We

had breakfast and role call at 7:30am?in 4 hours.

I got up around 7am and found Herb, our MPC (Marine Projects

Coordinator). He basically runs the operations of the science and

anything not related to actually operating the boat. I hope that

makes sense. The captain runs the ship with regard to maintenance,

navigation, piloting, etc. and Herb manages the science and those of

us on board for other reasons (transit, station supplies, etc).

Anyway, Herb agreed to get the postcards to Juanita as I really wasn?t

supposed to leave the boat within two hours of leaving port.

We left Punta Arenas about 0900 EDT. The wind had really picked up

last night and was blowing about 30 knots. I don?t know what the

converts to in mph, but it was strong. Anyway, everything was calm in

the morning and we spent most of the time until lunch out on the deck.

After lunch, we had our safety briefing. It covered basic boat

safety with regard to getting around on the ship, float suit

instruction, what to do in an emergency, and a tour of the life boats.

All pretty straight forward.

I learned afterward that we are very likely going to stop by an

Emperor Penguin colony at some part of the cruise! We are stopping

there to check on a colony that has seen MAJOR declines in population.

Two years ago there were about 200 pairs of birds and I guess last

year there were 9 pairs. Yes, 9. No one onboard knows why, but I?m

going to see if I can get more details. I?ve been fascinated with

penguins since I was a kid and Emperors are my favorite. I really

hope there are still some there.

We left the Straits of Magellan about an hour ago. I understand that

we should hit the Drake sometime tomorrow. The current forecast looks

good for our crossing, but the captain says that the weather can

change very quickly. The food has been pretty decent and so far, so

good with regard to seasickness. BTW, my email address on the boat is:

mike dot forrester at lmg dot usap dot gov

I apologize for the funny formatting, but I don?t want the spammers to

find it easy. Sound it out and it should make sense. I?m limited to

25K per day so please be brief and no attachments, but feel free to

drop me a line anytime. Since I have no Internet access, these posts

are being done blindly from email. Let me know if they are working.

Also, email is downloaded via the satellite modem around 0830, 1230,

and 1830 EDT. So please expect a delay. I?ll try and do shorter,

more frequent posts in time for the mail transfer. Cheers for now.

This post was written at 2100 EDT 12 May 2007.

Friday, May 11, 2007


A quick update before I head to dinner.  We embarked on the LMG today which means we are now officially checked in, assigned a room, and ready to head out.  We are supposed to head out tomorrow at 9am EDT.  I pulled the GPS coordinates of a screen in the NBP and punched them into Google Maps:,-70.906545&spn=0.006303,0.014162&t=k&z=16&om=1

It's pretty accurate as the boat is currently parked where the arrow points.  Once we are underway, we are not supposed to post the coordinates, but I think this is ok and it is not like anyone doesn't know where the ship is at.  Starting tomorrow, my posts will be from email as we won't have Internet access on the boat.  Local tradition is to kiss the toe of an native statue in town.  We did that this morning and took pictures.  We probably won't get them posted until we get to Palmer station.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Catching Up, Part 3

I'm sure this has all been a bit dry and I'm a few days behind.  I'll try and caught up on this post.  So maybe I can do a better job at capturing the moment.

We are working twelve hour days to get what we need done.  Add in 4-5 hours a day for meals, getting ready in the morning, and walking to and from the docks and there isn't much time for anything else.

6 May 2006

Paul gave us a tour and showed us all of the information systems on the boat, which are quite a few on a science vessel.  We went to lunch at a place called Lomit's which was decent.  Nothing fancy, but good.  My best analogy is that it is like a Chilean dinner, but not so greasy.  We then worked some more and then after work went out for dinner with a few of the people from the NBP.  Everywhere was closed because it was Sunday except, Lomit's.  It was great to sit with the people from the ship and hear their stories about their travels.  A lot of the people who sign up for jobs on the ships have really seen a lot.  Probably the most interesting was John Evans.  He was part of the team to first climb Vinson Massif
, the highest mountain in Antarctica, in 1966.  He's a great, personable guy that had some great stories to tell.  After dinner, we went to our hotel and to sleep.

7 May 2007

We pretty much settled into our routine of brunch at the hotel about 0645 and then a walk to the docks for a day of work on the NBP and at the warehouse.  Paul then finds a different place to go for a lunch everyday.  We work the rest of the day and then wander around the city trying to find a place someone in the office or ship recommends for dinner.  Lunch today was at El Quijote.  To start we had what Paul called the Chilean equivalent of nachos.  It's bunch of assorted, chopped, cooked meats with some onions, olives, tomatoes, and french fries mixed in.  I don't remember what it was called, but it was pretty good.  For the meal we had a soup that had half a corn on the cob, a whole potato, a chicken breast, rice, and some vegetables.  It was very good.  For dinner we ate at a pizza place that was pretty good.  Chris had a pizza that had the same meats in the Chilean nachos, plus crab meat, tomato sauce, cheese and a sauce on top called 'salsa golf' which is basically ketchup and mayo.  I had what was basically a Hawaiian pizza plus cherries.  It was tasty.  Then it was back to the hotel.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

8 May 2007
Pretty much the same as yesterday except lunch at Iralandes and dinner at O'Sole Mio.  The dinner was at an Italian place with a local twist.  The food was good and with a bottle of one of their best wines, was something like $40.  Not bad.

9 May 2007
We arrived at the pier today to discover that the Laurence M. Gould (aka LMG) had arrived.  This was of particular interest to us and this ship is going to be our home for 23 or 24 days starting on the 11th.  We were busy working and didn't get a chance to get on board.  Lunch was at Corfina(?) which was probably the least favorite so far, but I had this chicken dish that I once had in Mexico City that I really like and hadn't had since.  For dinner we wandered around looking for a place that everyone said we should visit which is somewhat like Rodizo's.  We walked all the way across town, something like 10-12 blocks and couldn't find it.  We went back to the hotel and were told that it was the opposite direction and probably a couple of miles.  We 'settled' for a place that a guy in the lobby recommended, Sotito's.  The food was great.  Chris had seafood soup with a rack of lamb and I had a fillet mignon with mushrooms.  We had another wine and the total was about $50.  Not bad either.

Well that gets us caught up for now.  I'm sure I missed some things, but I'll fill in details later.

Catching Up, Part 2

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Catching Up, Part 1

I've been very busy with work and the hotel's Internet
access wasn't working, so I'll go back a bit. This is rough, but at least it'll fill in the gaps a bit.

4 May 2007

After a lot of running around and delays caused by the alarm
people, I arrived at the airport and was checked in by 3pm. It was the first time I have been to the
airport since I left there in Nov 2006. I had finally gotten used to going to the airport everyday and not going
anywhere so it actually felt, as strange as it may sound, odd going to the
airport to go somewhere. :) I took a few minutes to see a few friends
that I worked with at the airport in my previous life. We didn't have a lot of time to catch up on
things, but it was good to see them. I
went to the gate and my former manager stopped by to say hello and wish me a
safe journey. The 2pm flight from Denver to Dallas was really
bumpy at first, but then settled down a bit after we passed the storm that had
just gone through Denver.

The Dallas airport is a lot
nicer than it was the last time I was through there on my way to Mexico City about 8 or 9
years ago. I called Layna before the
flight to see how she, Abby, and Cora were doing. I talked to Abby for a bit, but I don't think
it had really set in yet that I was going to be gone for just over a
month. Our flight from Dallas to Santiago
left on time around 9:10pm CDT.

5 May 2007

We flew pretty much due south as the flight was nearly 10
hours and we only changed one time zone. Chilean time is currently the same as the east coast time in the US but I'm not
sure if that is always the case. We
arrived in Chile and were
greeted by Jimmy from Agunsa who is under contract to Raytheon to assist everyone
on their way to and from Antarctica as part of
the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). Jimmy was great and definitely made getting through customs and
immigration very easy. The customs
people confiscated some trail mix that I brought as dried fruit and nuts are
not allowed to be imported into Chile. No big deal, but I would have put it on my
carry on and eaten it on the way down had I know that. Agunsa has an office in the airport and that
gave us a comfortable place to rest while waiting for our next flight, which
was in a few hours. Our flight to Punta
Arenas (PA) left about 10:55am, so we had some time to get some lunch. My co-worker Chris and I stopped at a sandwich
shop and got our first, small taste of our very poor Spanish. Our food turned out good surprising our
collective understanding of maybe a couple dozen words in Spanish. Once we ate, we tried to get a good view of
the Andes from the airport, but the pollution
and haze made it difficult. Our flight
left on time and we had a good flight a head of us.

I will continue later as it is time for bed. This entry was written on 7 May 2007 at 2200

Monday, May 7, 2007

Quick Update

Sorry for the lack of updates. The Internet at the hotel has been broken and right before bed is the only time I really have to update the blog. Details tonight.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Blog Created!

I've been meaning to setup a blog for awhile now.  The start of my first trip to Antarctica is tomorrow so I figured I'd better get started.