Flying South for the Winter: I’m Going to Antarctica!

I write to you from a ship in the middle of the ocean, somewhere off the tip of Chile. Later tonight, my boat will be in the Drake Passage: notoriously the roughest seas on Earth.

I left my home in North Carolina on Tuesday, and some 30 hours later I was standing on a pier overlooking the Strait of Magellan, after flights from Raleigh to Miami to Santiago to Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. They’re just emerging from a long, dark winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, and needless to say the ripping wind and freezing rain were quite a shock to my Carolinian skin!

Traveling with the United States Antarctic Program, you get VIP treatment: straight to the front of the lines in Customs, and a driver to greet you in Punta Arenas. I spent the evening out with my new coworkers (if you’ve never eaten llama, I highly recommend it), and in the morning we walked to a warehouse for our “Extreme Cold Weather gear”…

The ECW warehouse is full of standard-issue parkas, overalls, flannel shirts, down vests, Neoprene boots, snow pants, ski goggles, balaclavas, heavy duty gloves, and fuzzy socks – and you’re outfitted with everything you could possibly need.

Now I am southbound again, a day and a half into the journey by boat from South America to Antarctica. Check out my ride, the ARSV Laurence Gould:

So far the seas are pretty calm, but as soon as we’re far enough out that South America is no longer shielding us from the northwesterlies… well… wish me luck! This time of year it’s not uncommon to hit 50-foot waves.

Stay tuned to hear more! I’ll be working with a marine ecology project in Antarctica for the next four months, posting stories, photos, and videos on SeaMonster. You can also check out my personal website, www.xyzena.com, for more good stuff. Forgive the lack of photos in the meantime… internet at sea is a pretty rare and slow thing. Talk to you soon!

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