PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE

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Transmission from Karen Stamieszkin:

Science is all about acronyms. The better an acronym for a proposed project is, the more likely it will get funded. While I say that somewhat in jest, it is true that anything with an acronym is more likely to be remembered and is almost always used in place of the full name. Throughout science blogs everywhere, acronyms abound- be warned and get used to it.


Punta Arenas is the most austral port and town in the world. It is one endpoint between which the research vessel the Lawrence M. Gould (LMG) bounces, the other of which is the Antarctic Peninsula and Palmer Research Station. When I think of Punta Arenas, a feeling of decadent decay is invoked; eating and sleeping in PA, as it's affectionately called by those working on the LMG, is like going back to a time when care was taken in every detail of construction; dark wooden moulding is the norm, glass atrium greenhouses serve as dining rooms, and brass-adorned underground bars are filled nightly with cigarette smoke and patrons.


One theory is that PA was a booming port town when the Straits of Magellan were the safest route from one coast of the American continent to the other. It is the largest town on the Straits, which serve as a safer passage compared with rounding the fearsome Cape Horn. It is thought that PA saw the end of its glory days with the construction of the Panama Canal, which eliminated the need for ships to sail the full perimeter of the continent to get from, for example, New York to San Francisco. The town now waxes and wanes with the Southern Ocean fishing fleet that calls PA home, as well as the Antarctic and Patagonian tourism industry.


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A view of Punta Arenas from the research vessel Lawrence M. Gould as we depart from port.


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The Straits of Magellan, under an interesting sky.


ON OUR WAY- the crossing


We departed from PA on December 29th. Filling ones time while making the crossing can be a challenge. While still in the Straits, it is possible to set up equipment, use the machines in the ship's gym, and generally go about life at a normal pace. I spent a lot of time looking for wildlife. There are always interesting birds following the ship, including different types of albatross and shearwaters.


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A black-browed albatross.


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A greater shearwater.


As we left the Straits and headed for the Drake Passage, we were visited by several groups of dolphins, some Commerson's dolphins, and some Peel's dolphins. Peel's dolphins are endemic to the area, and are therefore seen nowhere else in the world.




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Some Peel's dolphins making their way toward the boat to ride its bow and stern waves; in the background you can nearly see the end of the American continent.

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Peel's dolphins.



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Peel's dolphins





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This page contains a single entry by Nick Record published on January 7, 2012 2:39 AM.

Water Sampling and More was the previous entry in this blog.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE DRAKE? is the next entry in this blog.

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