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In Transit

Antarctica, being the most remote continent on earth, is by no means easy to get to. From California, I traveled two days by plane to arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile, where our research vessel is docked. Then we have three days of steaming (the equivalent to driving in a car) until we arrive at the sub-Antarctic islands where we conduct our research, all of which revolves around Antarctic krill, Euphasia superba.

We do our research from aboard a chartered Russian boat, the R/V Yuzhmorgeologiya. She is a sturdy, ice-enforced vessel, 104.5 meters long and 16 meters wide. Ice-enforced means the boat can safely move through thin ice flows (small, broken up ice fragments that are remnants of old icebergs), but nothing more. The vessel cannot move through thick ice patches, nor could it break through ice the way that icebreakers are designed to do.

Our vessel, the R/V Yuzhmorgeologiya.

Today was the first day of transit, and as we traveled from Punta Arenas through the Straight of Magellan we were blessed with flat seas and sunny skies. Most of the scientific crew was out on the bow of the boat, soaking up the sun and delighting over the wildlife. Commerson’s Dolphins, Magellanic Penguins and Black-browed Albatross were among the most common wildlife spotted. In these pleasant moments on deck, it’s hard to imagine that in a few short days the sun will be scarce and our moments of comfortably hanging out in only jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt will be over.

A Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys).

As I write, we begin our voyage across the Drake Passage, famous for having the roughest waters on earth. I don’t know if we’ll have a calm passing or if we’ll fight terrible 20 foot swells or worse. The current steady but gentle rocking of the boat does not give a clear indication of what’s to come. Only time will tell.


2 Responses »

  1. To Scientist Cassandra,

    Your blog is most interesting as you start from the beginning of this journey to Antarctica and create a creative path to the adventure that is to come. I feel you are taking me along as I can almost feel the wind and the waves plowing against the ship.

    christine k brooks

  2. To mom Brooks,

    Thanks for your kind words! I am glad you have enjoyed being along for the ride.

    Best wishes,