Heading South: Birmingham, AL to Punta Arenas, Chile

SantiagoAirportAfter spending a couple of days of figuring out what I will need for the next four and a half months and how to make it fit into two duffle bags, I found myself excitedly sitting inside my screen door with all my gear when Chuck and Maggie showed up to start the caravan to the airport.

Once we had everything loaded we headed to UAB to gather the rest of the gang. The group leaving from Birmingham (February 9) consists of Chuck, Maggie, Kevin and myself. Jim and his wife helped us coordinate our transit the airport from UAB. As you can imagine, four people with two 50 lb duffle bags, it gets crowded quickly.

Everyone gets to take two duffle bags, but it isn't just all warm clothes. In fact, only one bag each contains personal gear. The second duffle bag is generally dedicated to science gear. In this case, science gear includes everything from dive gear to supplies for our experiments for use at Palmer Station.

Transited to the BirminghaJimmyOfficem airport without a hitch and had smooth flight to Atlanta, where we met up with Kate. Kate just completed an awesome class in Mexico that concentrated on PAM fluorometry (there will be lots more on that later, as it plays a big part in this project). To fly into Atlanta last night, she had to leave the class a couple of days early.

The flight from Atlanta to Santiago, Chile was 9 hours and 35 minutes. Phew, it's a long flight! However, we were in good company. We met up with Bill Fraser, whose research group studies the bird species found around Palmer Station.

Upon arrival in Santiago we connected with Jimmy. Jimmy has been working with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) for about 30 years. He greets us at immigration and helps guide us through any possible bumps that may come up in the process of making our connecting flights. After a long and mostly sleepless night, it is a relief to have a friendly face greet us.

ClothingIssueAnother four hour southerly flight took us to Punta Arenas. Baggage claim had a big surprise for me: one of my former laboratory students from UAB!! She and her family were going backpacking around Torres del Paine, Chile. But first, they overnighted at the same hotel in Punta Arenas as we did. It's a small world!

After a restful night's sleep our group walked through a cool morning drizzle to a warehouse at the port get our extremely cold weather or ECW gear. ASC, the science support contractors, supply everyone who works in the USAP with clothing for use in Antarctica. We get issued everything from hats, gloves, and neck gators to long underwear, work pants, and boots. Paul made sure we got everything we need for our season at Palmer.

RubbingToeNext stop, the Plaza des Armas square with the prominent Ferdinand Magellan monument. Rubbing the big toe of one of the indigenous Fuegans also depicted on the monument is said to ensure a safe and calm crossing of the Drake Passage. Everyone heading south takes the time to rub the toe and hope it works. We are currently passing smoothly through the Straits of Magellan. Check back later to see if rubbing the toe helped ensure a smooth crossing for UAB!