Chilly in Chile

…as if that pun has never been made before. Apologies.

Anyway, here I am! After nearly 30 hours of flights and layovers, I have made it to Punta Arenas, Chile.  At the Santiago airport, representatives from Raytheon (the company that oversees many US polar deployments) met our group and breezed us through customs.  I totally felt like a VIP celebrity … if celebrities ever arrive at airports wearing enormous backpacks and hiking boots.

Punta Arenas is, incidentally, home to the southernmost beer brewery and southernmost grapevines in the world.

Time for me to go to bed. Early tomorrow morning I will head to a giant warehouse overlooking the Strait of Magellan, where I will be issued my cold weather gear, and then move onto the LM Gould.

cold but wet

One of the most interesting features on Axel Heiberg is the existence of perennial springs. They come in a variety of forms. Some look like little streams flowing down the side of the hill, others look like ponds bubbling up like tiny jacuzzis, still others look like seeps coming up from below. Some of them leave deposits that form shapes like pipes over the springs.

But don’t let the bubbling jacuzzi effect fool you–these springs are not hot. Not even close. Intriguingly, the temperatures vary from spring to spring, despite their proximity to one another. Most are around 4 degrees Celsius. The really neat thing is that these springs flow year round, despite a mean annual temperature of minus 15 degrees. And they come up at a constant temperature and flow rate, despite air temperatures which, over the seasons, change drastically from above freezing to 40 below.

The springs also reek of that delicious rotten egg smell, like a giant fart. Thank you, sulfur.

The grayish stuff you see in the pictures above is a film of sulfur-reducing bacteria. The white stuff is gypsum, a type of salt.

The Arctic: Ice Ice, Baby

Looking out the window of the plane yesterday, I was ecstatic when I realized that no, that’s not a very lost sailboat on the water down there.  No, indeed, ladies and gentlemen…

IT’S A HUGE HONKIN’ CHUNK OF FLOATING ICE

And it is not alone.

Yes, folks, welcome to the Arctic.  Resolute Bay, specifically.  We arrived here yesterday after roughly seven hours of flights up from Ottawa.  This will be our last stop before hopping a twin-otter plane to Axel Heiberg Island, two hours even further north of here. 

The word barren, while accurate, does not do justice to the Arctic.  It is starkly beautiful.

Sleeping in the tent last night was less than cozy (note to self: wear a hat to bed), but I am still excited out of my mind to be here.  We are hopefully flying to Axel in half an hour, but the fog may postpone our departure.  Visibility is maybe 200 meters at most.  Not prime flying weather.

It’s quite a hike from our camp at Axel to the nearest internet access, so this may be the last you hear from me for a while.  Stay tuned…