After a full 25 hours of flying into Punta Arenas, Chile we stayed overnight at Jose Negueira hotel. This is a historical location of William Shackelton, one of the first explorers to Antarctica. After his ship crashed he came to drink his sorrows at the bar in this historic hotel.
The next day was spent getting all our gear and paperwork cleared for our journey. We were all given a gear bag full of cold and wet weather apparel. Boots, bibs and waterproof gloves were some of the items we were loaned. After a day of prep, we rubbed Magellan’s toe in the city square of Punta Arenas, and then took off!
We set said on the Laurence M. Gould (LMG) research vessel. This 230-foot vessel is much more equipped to handle the ice and rough seas of our journey than the old wooden boats of Shackelton’s time. The LMG’s ice-enforced hull can handle up to a foot of ice and the constant rocking motion common in the Drake Passage. Our journey was estimated to be 4 days. We set sail from Punta Arenas through the Straits of Magellan towards the east, then headed sourth along Argentina towards Cape Horn. From there, across the Drake Passage into Palmer Station Antarctica.
The Drake Passage is known as some of the roughest waters in the world. It’s a confluence of three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific and Southern) and is known to produce swells up to 80ft high and have winds of over 100 knots. We entered the Drake at around Day 2. Weather radars were showing a significant storm system over the Drake, so the captain of the LMG decided to veer us off course to avoid the worst of the storm. Our journey was delayed by 12 hours, and we still experienced 3 days of 40-50ft swells and 50 knot winds. The scientists on board were not allowed to go on deck during the worst of it. So most of us took Dramamine and napped the days away.
But by day 5, we were through the storm! We came through the Neumeyer Channel, and it was a beautiful site after a long journey at sea. From the ship’s bridge (where the navigation equiptment is) we saw penguins, humpback whales, minke whales and terns and petrels. We saw our first icebergs against a clear background of blue skies and bluer waters. It was definilty a welcome site after living inside the boat for days! A few hours through the channel and we reached our final destination—Palmer Station on Anvers Island! 7,201 miles later and our jouney begins!