By Amanda Biederman
Chief Science Correspondent
After more than a week of traveling by air and sea, I've finally made it to my final destination: Palmer Station, Antarctica. I've been on station for three days, and it all still feels like a dream.
When I last posted, I was sitting in an airport in Santiago, Chile. That afternoon, I flew to Punta Arenas, a small city at the southern end of the country. PA is a beautiful city, full of color, food, and culture. Of course, many of the members of our group were long-time Palmer veterans. But for me, the experience was brand new.
After a shipment-related delay, we set off on the Laurence M. Gould on Tuesday afternoon. The Gould is a relatively new vessel; it was launched in 1997, and replaced the 1983 Polar Duke. Bright orange in color and 70 meters in length, the Gould is impossible to miss on sight.
The map (above) from sailwx.info, actually shows the real-time path that the ship took last week on the way to Palmer. We sailed through Argentina, which I could just barely see from the ship's deck, around the tip of South America, and through the Drake Passage.
For the next five days, the Gould was my home. And it wasn't a bad home. My bunk was larger than I'd expected; I've slept in college dorms with less floor room, and each came with a private bathroom. The ship had a large lounge area with comfy leather chairs and a large television, and was stocked with DVDs. The food was at best, very good and at worst, decent.
My fellow passengers were a mix of scientists and Palmer staff members from around the world. One group, from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, is studying circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean. They enlisted our help to launch expendable bathythermographs (XBTs) along the Drake Passage to measure changes in temperature with depth.
We launched the XBTs from the cannon-like device (photo below). The instrument hits the water, and, attached to the launcher by a tiny wire thread, relays temperature data to the pre-connected computer as it sinks below the surface. At 900 meters, we cut the thread.