Finally back in PA, the gateway to Antarctica! Last night we arrived after dark, and loaded into
USAP vans to our hotels. Driving from the airport into town, I was peering out into the darkness, looking
for landmarks I remembered. After about 20 minutes of driving through the dark, we rounded a corner
and crested a small hill coming up from the east into town and the dock suddenly came into view with
the NB Palmer and the LM Gould both lit up. I was practically jumping up and down with excitement:
we’re here, we’re really here, and there’s the beautiful boat that will be our lab, our office, our home,
and our transportation to the frozen south for the next month. It’s been a busy and stressful time
getting everything ready for this cruise, but seeing the ship here in PA all the stress, worry and fatigue
was replaced with pure excitement for the science and adventure to come.
Through the darkness you could also barely make out next to the main dock, the old wooden
dock is still there, even more decrepit and with just as many cormorants as I remember. We headed out
for dinner from the same hotel I had stayed at before, and I didn’t recognize the name of the restaurant
we were headed towards, but as soon as we stepped inside I remembered having dinner there before,
with a different group of scientists. It’s so neat to see things which are just the way I remember them
from my very first oceanographic cruise 7 years ago.
But many things have also changed. This morning we went down to the dock to get our ECW,
Extreme Cold Weather, gear, but I led us to where we used to enter the dock, and it isn’t the entrance
anymore, after a few minutes of confusion we found our way down the street to the new, more secure
port entrance. The warehouse looked different too, and it took a few minutes to find our way to the
new ECW area. The grocery store has changed owners, and the block of phone booths that used to line
the side of the post office seems to be gone, presumably everyone has cell phones instead.
PA is just as beautiful as ever though; running along the new pedestrian walkway that follows
the edge of the water, watching the sun rise over the straights of Magellan and the opposite shore, it’s
so good to be back – but I can’t wait to leave again, this time for Antarctica!