22:32, February 2nd

Our lab on board the Gould is all packed up into several metal trunks, which are now tied securely to bolts in the wall.  By tomorrow we’ll be in the Drake Passage once again, northbound for South America.

The last few days have been a nonstop show of stunning scenery and Antarctic shenanigans.

On our way back north from Charcot Island, we took the inside passage, squeezing in between the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands just off its coast.  Steaming through the Tickle Channel, the ship had to steer through a gap in the mountains that was so small I couldn’t even see it until we were practically in it.

I’ve recently achieved Shellback status, meaning I’ve undergone the traditional “ceremony” for those who have crossed the Antarctic Circle in a ship.  What this more or less entails is a hazing ritual inflicted upon us by those who had crossed in the past.  Events of the day included:  bobbing for squid, a 5-gallon bucket of freezing seawater on my head, embarrassing songs and dances for King Neptune, and the disgusting “Whale’s Belly” … I won’t give too much away, in case any of you should some day partake in this ritual.

After the hazing, we spent a few hours exploring Prospect Point–including sledding down a glacier on trash bags, and a boat-wide snowball fight.  It was the sunniest, calmest, clearest day we’d had yet, which was great, aside from the horrible sunburns most of us got.  Heading back to the Gould in our Zodiacs, we had to fight through more brash ice than I’ve ever encountered.  The water was so clear that we could see down to the submerged portions of the icebergs.  Everything was bright white and blue, like some kind of oversaturated, overexposed photograph.  This whole continent is very monochrome and very bright.

Last night we stopped at Palmer Station for a final cargo load and a Superbowl party.  Components of an Antarctic Superbowl party:

Barbecue on a grill someone had welded together specifically for our Superbowl dinner?  Check.
6-hour-long sunset?  Check.
Penguin-watching during halftime?  Check.
Jumping into water with icebergs and humpback whales?  Check.
10,000-year-old ice in my drink?  Check.

The Gould left the pier at Palmer around 05:30 this morning.

Antarctica is beginning to transition into winter, which means we may actually get an hour of darkness tonight.

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