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UAB in Antarctica

How do we get to Palmer Station? Well, if you have ever been to a big international airport like the one in Atlanta and looked at the Departures board, you might recall never seeing a destination marked “Antarctica.” It isn’t quite that easy.

Our trip will start at the Birmingham airport where we arrive with multiple bags including not only our clothes for four months, but also dive gear and other equipment that we needed here at home so could not ship down to Antarctica ahead of time. You don’t want to be in line behind us at the airport!

From Birmingham, as we usually do, this year we will fly first to Dallas Texas. After a fairly long layover there, we will get on an international flight to the capital city of Chile, Santiago.

In Santiago, we will be met by an agent contracted by the National Science Foundation. For many years, this has been a wonderful man named Jimmy Videla. On the right there is a photo of Jimmy standing between Jim and Maggie from our 2007 trip through Santiago on our way to Palmer Station. Jimmy and his crew help us get ourselves and all of our gear to our next flight, which will take us to the port city of Punta Arenas. It takes over 24 hours of sitting in airports and on airplanes between the time we take off from Birmingham and arrive in Punta Arenas.

Punta Arenas is in southern-most Chile on the Strait of Magellan. There we will board the US research ship Laurence M. Gould, which to the right you can see tied up at the Punta Arenas pier in a photo from one of our previous trips.

Punta Arenas has a central square that is a hub of activity. At its very center is a large statue of Ferdinand Magellan. Around the base the statue are other figures including a Fuegan, one of the indigenous peoples who lived in this region before European colonization. The Fuegan’s foot drapes down low enough to touch, and lore has it that if you rub the big toe you will be assured of a safe return to Punta Arenas. On the right you can see photos of Maggie and me doing just that.

We will spend a full day and two nights in Punta Arenas so that we can be issued special cold weather clothing for Antarctica. Then on 13 February we are scheduled to sail on the Laurence M. Gould through the Strait of Magellan, out into the South Atlantic Ocean, and then into the Southern Ocean on our way to Palmer Station. From that point until we arrive at Palmer Station you should be able to track our progress at this Ship Tracking Web Site.

That’s where the true adventure begins. Maggie, Jim, Kate, Ruth, and I all look forward to taking you on that adventure with us over the next few months. We will be out of internet contact until we arrive at Palmer Station on 18 February. We cannot wait to tell you about our travels south when we get there.