20:29, January 2nd

Aside from a few hours of 20-foot swells, our Drake Passage crossing has been fairly uneventful.  Even the 20-foot swells weren’t all that exciting–the Gould is so big we just float right through them.  So far we’ve watched several movies, played some Scrabble, and have begun playing a Cribbage tournament (I already lost, in my first game).  I almost slept through midnight on New Year’s Eve.

For a while, all sorts of birds would follow our ship.  We’ve seen petrels and albatross coasting above the Gould’s wake.  As soon as we crossed into Antarctic waters, though, the birds just disappeared.

It’s getting colder, too, so that I have to bundle up in my big, red, standard-issue US Antarctic Program parka before I head out on deck.  By early tomorrow morning, we should be out of the Drake Passage and sailing down the Antarctic Peninsula, in view of glaciers, icebergs, whales…

In the meantime, here are some sweet facts about Antarctica to keep you entertained:

Antarctica is a place of extremes: the highest, coldest, driest, southernmost continent on Earth.  The warmest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica was 14.6°C (58.3°F).  The coldest is -89.2°C (-128.6°F).  In some parts of the continent, winds regularly blow 200 kilometers per hour.  Interestingly, Antarctica has the world’s lowest average rainfall, which technically also makes it the world’s largest desert.  All the precipitation that has ever fallen on the continent piles up, locked in ice averaging nearly 2 kilometers thick–which is Earth’s largest store of freshwater.  The Antarctic Peninsula, where I’m headed, juts out as far north as 63°S, and is home to most of the continent’s research stations.

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