The R/V Laurence Gould (henceforth “Larry G.”) will be leaving the pier in Punta Arenas in 45 minutes. I joined the ship’s company yesterday afternoon, and have still been trying to find my way around. It’s great to be on a ship again, but this is an entirely different experience. Compared to the SSV Seamans, this ship is enormous–there are four levels below decks, multiple decks above, a giant bridge, a few cranes, and (get this!) a sauna. Compared to a few of the other ships in port here, though, Larry G. seems pretty tiny. We’re right next to the R/V Palmer, which is like the monster-sized sister to the Gould. Across the pier is a gargantuan Japanese fishing vessel.
So far our only job has been to get all of our gear organized and tied down in preparation for “The Crossing,” which is the ominous-sounding title for the four days we’ll spend going across the Drake Passage. The Drake is the expanse of ocean between the tip of South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It has some of the most notoriously rough seas in the world, because the Antarctic Circumpolar Current must squeeze between the two continents.
Today I had a chance to get off the ship and explore Punta Arenas a bit. My day included:
– rubbing the bronze toe of a large statue of Magellan. This will apparently grant me a safe passage through the Strait on my way south.
– running around town looking for some lost luggage, which I found in a hotel where Shakleton himself once set foot (it was a municipal building at the time of his rescue from the Antarctic)
– wandering through a colony of penguins that live on grass and burrow into the dirt.
– 40-knot winds.