It is 5:30 AM central time as I start this entry. The Gulf of Mexico is 30,000 feet or so below me and it shouldn’t be long until the lights of the Texas coast come into view out the window. In 7 hours I should be back at UAB and tonight, I’ll be home.
So many of my thoughts are of our team back at Palmer. It was only a week ago that I left but in many ways it seems like much longer.
Normally, when leaving Palmer for Chile, the Laurence M. Gould will leave the dock at 10:00 AM. But on this trip north we would stop for a few hours to retrieve a sonar buoy for Mark and Dinny who’s whale song project Jim told you about his last entry. So with the concurrence of all of the scientists leaving Palmer, we were scheduled to sail early, leaving the dock no later than 8:00. That meant getting on board a bit after 7:00.
I got up early to be ready for our departure. More than half of the people who had been on station over the last month were leaving as the winter support crew had "relieved" most of the summer crew and the last of three summer science projects left. I wasn’t the only one with last minute details to attend to so I had lots of early morning company.
As usually happens, those of us leaving and most our colleagues staying on station gathered in the galley as departure time neared. A time for last minute chit chat and prolonged goodbys as we waited for the announcement that we had to board the ship.
That announcement is when the long series of hugs and handshakes starts, particularly with so many folks leaving station. It begins in the galley and then migrates to the pier as those of us leaving wait until just before the gangplank needs to be raised to board.
A final hug with Maggie and I am across the gangplank. My name gets checked off on a boarding list as I step aboard the Gould and I’m now officially off the station. Time to head to the upper deck. The goodbys aren’t over yet.
As is tradition, those of us leaving Palmer line the deck rails of the Gould. When we are all aboard there will still be 10-15 minutes before the last line is cast off and we are moving away from the dock. It is a time for shouts of jest back and forth and lots of goodby waves. As I look down, the rest of the UAB and USF gang is between cargo vans on the pier.
At last, the final line is cast off and the ship moves away. Waves and shouts mingle with the engine noise as the captain quickly applies full power and we steam off. All now ex-Palmer eyes on the ship stay on station as it quickly shrinks into the background.
Next came four days on the ship. The first day was spent "inside" in protected waters between the Peninsula proper and the eastern side of Anvers Island as well as several islands that extend north of it. For much of the afternoon we had sunshine and the views were spectacular. So I spent a lot of time on deck or on the bridge. Nightfall meant the end of the scenery. The next close view of land would come with the morning light the morning we docked in Punta Arenas Chile.
I always save computer work and scientific reading for the crossing. Most years I have had lots of numbers to enter and statistical analyses to run. Those are good crossing projects. This year I didn’t have those but did get a lot of other projects done anyway.
Crossings are not just a time to work. They are also a chance to catch up on needed sleep and to relax a bit. Videos ran pretty much constantly in the lounge. I only watched one movie but did kick back with a couple fun books. And I did catch up on sleep.
I spent a day in Punta Arenas before heading north. It was quite a treat walking around under trees and seeing other large terrestrial plants. Then a day in Santiago visiting colleagues at Universidad Católica de Chile. Talk about a change of pace. Less than a week before I’d been at tiny, isolated Palmer and all of a sudden I find myself in the heart of a major city. But the hustle and bustle was fun and the visit with my colleagues enjoyable and productive.
And now I’m almost home...