So we left the dock in Punta Arenas shortly after our scheduled departure of 07:30. Spirits were high as we set sail for adventure! Much of the science party was on decks taking pictures of what we assumed would be one of our last views of green vegetation for a while. Back in the labs we scurried about putting everything into drawers, and screwing in eye-hooks to tie things onto tables. But when we looked out the window again a few hours later, there was the glass façade of the “Dreams” hotel in Punta Arenas! A quick look at the NobleTech navigation repeater screen in the lab confirmed, we’d headed out towards Antarctica, and then come back to almost where we started!
It turns out that our first stop before going south was actually to get fuel – we need about 200,000 gallons for the trip. But, with 40 knots of wind, the port pilot and fuel pier deemed it unsafe. So, ever since about 10 am yesterday we have been cruising slowly back and forth in front of Punta Arenas, waiting for the wind to die down, or a spot to open up at a pier where we can fuel by truck. It’s frustrating, but no-one can control the weather. We’re making the best of it, getting our labs extra super ready for science – Jess even put up our first Christmas decoration! We’re also using the time to talk about science – with over 20 scientists on board from a diverse range of backgrounds, it’s really interesting discussing both our plans for this particular cruise and other scientific questions.
We’ve seen a few interesting birds already, despite not having gone far. Along the shores in Punta Arenas are Southern Lapwings – which are a little bigger than pigeons but with longer legs. They seem almost spunky, and call loudly when you disturb them. At the old pier, which was built in the 1890’s but has been unused since 1930, there are huge groups of Imperial Shags and Cormorants. This morning, while jumping rope on the helo deck, I saw one of the birds I love in this region, a Southern Giant Petrel. These large petrels soar along riding the winds just above the waves. Dark brown, and with wingspans wider than my arms, they are beautiful creatures.
We still have high hopes of picking up the fuel we need today and heading towards the ice tomorrow!