Last Day

We made it to Chile yesterday and I learned that I was not on the same flight as anyone from Indiana State but my flight was one day earlier. So no Torres Del Paine for me but we still had fun exploring Punta Arenas and getting together with the entire crew for dinner since yesterday was my last day I spent about 5 hours walking around looking for suveneers and meeting people. Lots of things suprised me because they are indentical in the United States. I went to a big galleria, which was somewhat similar to a mall, and most of the things in the galleria were from America. Today we left Punta Arenas and flew over Torre Del Paines. It looked amazing from the plane we could see the mountains in every direction and also lots of glaciers. Now I am in Santiago waiting on the plane. I really wish I had more time in Antarctica or Punta Arenas. This has been the trip of a lifetime. It was filled with experiences most people can only dream about. I can’t wait to find out what’s next. Untill then we have to process and analyze all of the samples that were taken on these cruises.

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Day 18

Today, we got out of the rough water and now we are almost to the Strait of Magellan. So we should get back into Punta Arenas tomorrow afternoon. I’ve had a great time but I will be happy to sleep on a bed that’s not moving. Today, we also took a tour of the engine room, which is basically the entire lower level of the ship. We got to see the two main engines, the propeller shafts, and the rudder control. Tomorrow, we have a big banquet planned and the Palmer is supposed to be in port. The Palmer is the sister ship of the Gould but it’s quite a bit larger. I hope we get to tour it. Anyway for now I need to get my things packed up.

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Day 17

Today, I woke up by being nearly thrown from my bunk. When I looked out the room was a disaster zone. Everything had been thrown from its place and was rolling on the floor. Nothing was broken, but it had to be the roughest water yet. I went up to the bridge to check it out. It was crazy. The winds were reaching almost 70 mph and most of the swells were larger than 30 feet high. The bow of the ship was almost getting submerged as we would come off the swells. Almost all of the swells were breaking. It was for sure a site to see. It stayed this way for most of the day and, not surprisingly, a lot of people didn’t leave their rooms today. Lots of people were sea sick. Other then the extremely rough seas today hasn’t been an eventful day.

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Day 16

Last night we did get to have a small Fourth of July celebration. We shot off flares. I got to shoot one. The scientist on board said they had never seen it happen. It was awesome. We had to radio out that it was a practice run so no one would come, even though I don’t think we were close enough to anyone for the flares to be seen, which is kind of scary. All in all it was cool to get to do something especially this unique. The flares were red and had parachutes on them so they lasted for a long time. We shot off three in all because the ship had extra. Today everyone just passed time in their own way. Some people slept as long as they possibly could, some read, some watched movies, but I played PlayStation 3 all day again in the captian’s quarters. lol. Other then that not much has happened. We have been making a collection of every ones pictures so now when I get to update the pictures I should have a lot more.

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Day 15

Today I got up to see Palmer Station for the last time. It is tradition for someone from the station to jump in as the boat leaves but not today. The wind speeds last night and this morning were getting close to 40 mph and the wind chill was -22 F so not great conditions to jump into the ocean. We still stayed and watched them get the boat ready. The ropes we had tied off with were completely covered with icicles so they had to get in a boat and hit them with sledge hammers. After we left I went up to the bridge because we were headed for the Neumayer Channel, which is a fairly narrow channel making it a great place to get close to animals, glaciers, mountains, and icebergs. On the way I saw another seal but this time i got to see him jump all the way out of the water and dive down. Then all the way through the channel the views were amazing. It seemed like every direction would be a perfect photo. We had mountains on both sides of us and icebergs all around. It stayed that way for about 2 hours. I can’t wait to upload the pictures when I get to Punta Arenas. Since we have left the channel the visibility has decreased and not much has happened. Still no word of any type of celebration for the Fourth of July either. But yet again everyone is worried about the conditions in the Drake Passage. That is what will truly make or break the trip home it could add two miserable days of sailing if we have bad weather.

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Day 14

Last night’s pizza was amazing. Then we played pool and video games all night and woke up kind of late, but it’s really no big deal because of how late the sun rises anyway. When we did get up, we geared up and went to the glacier. The section of the glacier we are allowed to hike is about 3/4 of a mile on an incline. We had to wear cramp-ons on our boots so we could walk onto the ice. The views on the way to the top were amazing we could see mountains in one direction the cliff face of a glacier in another and the ocean on the other side. It took us quite awhile to finally scale the glacier, but the experience and the view were well worth it. On the way down, I decided to sled and definitely went faster then I ever have before on a sled. It was ridiculous. Since the glacier we have just relaxed for awhile it’s almost dark so we can’t go back out. Now we are just waiting for tonight. Palmer Station has planned a hog roast. The food here is great and all 26 of the people were cool. They had some very interesting stories. Tonight I’m sure I will get to hear more though. It is disappointing that after tonight I may never get to see this place again. So I better go enjoy it while I can.

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Day 13

Well, yet again we woke up on site full of excitment to be let down yet again. Today, they said it wasn’t clear enough for us to go out, so we set off for Palmer Station. On the way, we finished cleaning the lab and right as we finished I could see Palmer Station out of the window. It is amazing here. The station isn’t very big but everything around it is cool. To the left of the station, you can see the glaicer, which we get to go up. Other then that all around are pointy rocks covered in lots of snow and off in the distance there are mountains. I can’t believe I’m really here. The ocean is a really really deep blue which looks neat when it crashes against the rocks and ice. once we got dressed to go out we went on a quick tour of the station then exploring. The station has a mess hall, fitness room, a store, an aquarium room with some strange creatures, a broken hot tub :( , and a few other things. When we went out didn’t have time to go all the way up the glacier so we hung around the rocks at the bottom. Some of the snow drifts were up to my waist. Three of us walked down to a small inlet that was nearly completely frozen over but across the water we could see ice caves. We walked around some more and saw some large striations on the rocks around the island from the glacier. We had to hurry back because the wind was picking up and it was getting dark fast, at 3 pm. Now everyone is getting ready because Palmer Station has a pizza dinner planned for us tonight. Then in the morning we will start around 9:30, which is sunrise, and go exploring, maybe we will get to see some more animal life. The guys from Palmer said that seals have been hanging around the area. We still haven’t seen any whales or penguins but maybe soon. Oh since we arrived I have uploaded more pictures.

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Day 12

When I woke up today we were at Deception Island. I got dressed and outside as fast as I could then I heard we can’t go in. The water was fairly rough and the channel into the island is dangerous so we had to call it off. Oh well. We are really all the way done with science. Now we get to have fun. We just packed our supplies and plan to pack the rest after Palmer Station. Right now, we are enroute to an old British research base. I believe it’s called Port Lockroy. We should be there by morning and we plan to take out the boats and go to land for awhile. Then we will head straight for Palmer Station. So hopefully tomorrow night I can upload some pics.

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Day 11

Today was the day everyone knew was coming — bad day. Last night we hit a lot of rough water so no one got much sleep. When we all did get out of bed, we were on site so we prepared the multicorer and deployed it. When it returned, the seas were really rough. I think the wind was a little over 30 mph. The rough seas caused the multicorer to hit the ship on its way up. This stirred up all the cores making them useless. So we got it ready and sent it down again. This time it returned with the cores all stirred up and with some damage. Apparently, it hit something solid on the seafloor and broke our multicorer. We waited for the crew to repair it and got back to work, but it had been around 5 hours and we had nothing to show for it. We finally got three useable drops and left the site, but my camera got wet on the last one and I don’t think it’s going to work again. Anyway, we are now on the way to the final site and we are about two days ahead of schedule. I found out what the surprise is too. If we get done ahead, we get to go to this caldera called Deception Island. I don’t know much about the place except that it’s supposed to be amazing. So tonight I’m going to help the night shift with the last site so I can wake up and see what Deception Island is. Maybe it will have whales? Let’s hope.

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Day 10

Today wasn’t as much of an eventful day, but it still isn’t over. When I woke up we were on station so it was straight to work. we sent the multicorer down three times so everytime we would get caught up a new set of cores were on the way up and we would start on them. now that we have gotten used to working together the operation has been going super smooth with no wasted time. Now we only have three sites left and we will arrive at one in about 20 min. The other two are out in open water so everyone has their fingers crossed hoping the water has calmed down. If we keep going on this pace though we should get done one full day early. If so the scientists have been talking about going somewhere cool but that’s about all they will tell us for now. Even if we don’t it’s just cool to work like this. It really is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever seen. So 12 hours of work here goes by extra fast. For now though, I have to go get my gear on because we are almost there. I hope we get to see some animals.

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Day 9

Today was by far the most amazing day of life thus far. When I woke up we were at the core site so I got dressed faster than a 7 year old on Christmas morning and ran to the lower deck. I looked at one of the monitors that display a plethora of information and on my way out the door it said the wind speed was 50mph and the wind chill was -24 Celsius. Once I got outside the scene was fierce. We were in the roughest seas yet and getting the multicorer ready for deployment. The ship was being tossed back and forth and giant swells were breaking over the deck. It was exciting but dangerous. They called off the site for today because of the ridiculously rough seas. So we went farther south to try to get another site that is more sheltered by surrounding islands. On the way down, I went to the bridge because I was excited we were going to see things today other than just open water. At first we saw a little land and a few seals but later in the day icebergs started to appear more and more frequently. They are amazing to see, the water is so blue and clear you can actually see a lot of the underwater portion. We also got to see lots of mountains on the islands around the Antarctic Peninsula. Eventually, we got far enough south that the water was below its freezing point. Once this happens grease ice forms which kind of looks like an oil slick but it’s the first stage of the ocean freezing. It looked like rivers flowing through the ocean until it got colder and turned into shuga ice which is just slush. We were about at that stage when we got to the next site and since the waters were calm everything seemed ok but when we went out the multicorer was completely covered in ice. So we heated it with something similar to a caterpillar heater. Then we got to send it down and wait. After the wait we returned to the deck and all around us were chunks of ice the river of slush had frozen and formed pancake shaped chunks that were anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet. It was unbelievable. We got the cores off and processed them but the entire time it was awesome to look up and see huge mountains and ice bergs all around you while you’re working. Once my shift ended I went up to the fitness room and did the coolest workout ever because the whole time out the window we are cruising by giant chunks of ice. It’s hard to explain all of it and how neat all of this stuff is to see. Last month I didn’t think I would be doing curls on a bowflex on an icebreaker looking out the window at 40 ft chunks of ice but I’m here and it happened. I love it. I can’t wait untill to see what will happen tomorrow. Maybe I’ll finally get to see a whale

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Day 8

Today is the first day I forgot to take my sea sickness medicine, but it has been calm so I guess I’m ok without it. Actually haven’t seen or heard of anyone getting sick yet on this trip. Today started the same as yesterday with the monitoring then I hung out in the bridge (where all of the controls and the wheel are). I think the bridge is my favorite spot on the boat. It’s not cold and you can see in every direction. Today we got to Antarctica and I could see Smith Island with the binoculars. It was really awesome but by the time we got close it was covered by clouds. We finished up last minute preparations today as well because we will arrive at our first sampling site tonight around 6. It was real cool being on the back deck getting things ready. I got to see the swells at eye level. They are much bigger then I thought but it was exciting. I had to come back in because the deck gets slammed by waves in the Drake. Now that we are near land I’m hoping that we will see more signs of life and I’m glad that we finally get to start working. We finally arrived at site one and everyone rushed to the deck in excitement. After a brief safety meeting we got to work. The first task was to deploy the multicorer (takes cores or samples of the seafloor) and I was chosen to run one of the taglines, which are ropes that we use to keep the multicorer steady. Once the multicorer hit the water we all went to the rear to watch it go down. It is amazing to me how deep you can see it. Once it was out of site we waited and waited all in all it took around an hour and a half to get to the bottom, around 1200 meters, and back. When it got back all of the scientists were disappointed because there wasn’t much sediment and it was disturbed. An ideal core is a perfect sample that captures exact conditions at the seafloor with no changes. If the core shakes too much it gives a false representation. Since too many were bad we used the good ones and sent it back to the bottom. The cores we kept we had to process. To do this we cut the core down by centimeters and half centimeters and preserve them. After processing the multicorer had returned again but yet again it had bad samples and yet again we sent it back. Since I’m day shift and it’s almost midnight I was relieved of my duties but I’m happy that things are finally happening. Now I get to wake up tomorrow for a real reason.

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Day 7

We are now in the Drake passage. I woke up around 2 a.m. because I was
rolling in my bunk. The crew says this is very calm for the Drake so I
can’t imagine what a bad day on the Drake is like. Today has been fairly
slow. We are helping with an on-going project for SCRIPPS Institute of
Oceanography. My shift was from 8 am. to 12 pm. We monitored XBT probes,
which are released into the water at certain points and measure the
temperature down to around 900 meters. We just watched to make sure each
launch was successful and that good data was collected. We also are
releasing an XCTD, which is similar to a CTD that we will use later at our
sites. They both measure conductivity, temperature, and depth but the XCTD
is much smaller and is not recovered. To release the XCTD we would load
the launcher and walk it to the side of the ship and lower the launcher
allowing it to fall into the water. Our last task was to collect a water
sample. To do this we went down to the wetlab and four bottles had been
set up to continuously collect water from outside. At the correct time we
plug these bottles and store them. After this, the day was kinda slow. We
have just played games to pass time and every game has a little added fun
because you get to try to stay in place as the boat sways. My chair slid
around 5 feet more than once. We have to put down rubber mats at lunch to
keep our food on the table too. Everything on the boat is continuously
moving so when we put things away we have to take this into consideration.
Now I’m getting ready for dinner, then I will probably lift, hang out in
the sauna and study Spanish, then bed. O the boat also has an iridium
phone which is awesome. It allows us to call home even from all the way out
here. If anyone has questions, please comment or email
eminem4464@hotmail.com and I will answer them directly or in the blog as soon as possible.

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Day 6

Today everyone got to catch up on sleep and finish up with things that need to be done before research starts. We saw lots of dolphin and some seals, which was cool. We also had an abandon ship drill and had to get on the life boats, which are fully enclosed, very small, and would be absolutely terrible to ride in. Yesterday, during a safety meeting I was chosen to try on the mustang survival suit, which is a big plastic inflatable suit that we are supposed to use if we can’t get to the life boats. The suit is huge and uncomfortable but seems like it would be super effective. We also got to see the pilot , who is on board to navigate through the straights, jump from our boat to his while they were still moving at 10 knots. Now we are close to the coast of Argentina and in about two hours we should be around the bottom tip crossing into the Drake Passage. Everyone is hoping crossing the Drake won’t be that bad but from what I hear that doesn’t happen often especially in Winter. Now we are getting ready for dinner which has been great so far. Then we will probably prepare some formaldehyde for our samples and after that I will probably go to bed. Sleeping on the ship is much easier then I expected. Even though in the bunk you only get a few feet vertically they’ re actually comfortable and in my bunk there is a porthole right by my head. I haven’t decided if this is good or bad yet. The advantage is I can wake up and see the ocean but the porthole has a steel cover that suspends near my head so if I sit up too fast I crack my head, but for now it’s cool. Now I’m just anticipating what to expect on the Drake and enjoying the views.

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Day 5

Today we went into Punta Arenas for the last time before we leave. I went looking for souvenirs and gifts. I had trouble communicating but I’m learning fast and the people are very patient and helpful. The city seems really peaceful and all of the people I met have been really friendly. Anyways we set sail in about 1 hour then it will take about 4 days for us to navigate through the straights and the Drake passage but after that we will hopefully get 5 good days of research if the weather permits. This will give me time to adjust to life on board a ship and to meet more of the crew. So far life on the ships seems like it will be cool. The crew and grantees on the ship are all good people. Also the boat has a small workout room with a bowflex, treadmills, and some other equipment, a sauna, hot tub, lounge room with hundreds of movies, great food, and the boat itself is 3 levels so things aren’t too stuffy. well we are preparing to leave.

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Day 4

Today we moved onto the ship and got our exreme cold weather gear which included rubber boots, googles, sunglasses, thermals, carharts, a sweat suit, socks, rain gear, gortex bibs, gortex coat, like 5 different gloves, and a few other things. Anyways I have more clothes than I think I’ll need to use but I guess I will see. The crew on the ship said that they are expecting bad weather because the past few trips have been really rough. Hopefully it’s smooth because I don’t want to get sick for one but more importantly rough seas will keep us from collecting our samples and no research could take place. I have been looking up some things about the ship. There is a lot of information at http://www.usap.gov/vesselScienceAndOperations/ The vessel is the Lawrence M. Gould. The ship can be tracked at http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=WCX7445. I also looked to see how far I am away from home right now I am about 6500 miles from Terre Haute and once I’m at Palmer I will be about 7500 miles away. The rest of today will be spent securing everything on board the ship and getting our stuff in our rooms on the ship. After all of that I returned to the ship to help set up the lab then everyone got together for dinner, which was good. I had some type of mashed potatoes that just tasted like mashed potatoes covered with hot sauce but it was good. After dinner me and a few other grantees went to a salsa club and attempted to salsa. For anyone that can do it successfully I respect you. It was not for me but I did enjoy trying.

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Pictures

All of my pictures will be uploaded to http://www.flickr.com/photos/27745851@N04 As long as I have connection

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Day 3

Punta Arenas and finally the end of the flights. We arrived around midnight and had to get up early so it was straight to bed. and Ron woke up late and had to rush down to meet with-ᴨe rest of the grantees. We all went to the statue of Magellan to rub the toe of his mate for a safe trip through the Drake passage. The city was similar to Santiago but much smaller. The stray dogs were all over here as well but they are well fed by the people in the city. The city also wasn’t as cold as I had expected, it was around 30. After the statue we went to check out the ship and prepare our gear. When we arrive we had to-have our passport to the captain to get a pass onto the ship because we have to be cleared by Chilean customs. Everyone gets theirs but me they held my passport and said I wasn’t cleared. Everyone got on the ship and left me. The captain was on the phone for awhile and when he came out Tony had returned he told Tony he wasnt sure what was going on but I wasn’t cleared and asked Tony if he could do without me. At this point I was angry, scared, and disappointed. Then they hand me a pass and tell me it was just a joke. Funny huh. After this we explored the ship and met some of the crew then had lunch. At the end of lunch we returned to the ship to get our lab supplies unpacked and organized then we got the rest of the night to ourselves. Tomorrow we move onto the ship and the day after we set sail.

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First two days

Finally the trip has begun, after we left Indianapolis we flew over Terre Haute (I could actually see ISU and other landmarks). Once we arrived in Dallas I got to see a “real” airport. The airport is so big you have to take a train to your gate. While in Dallas we met up with Dr. Ishman and his students from SIU. We then left for Santiago which was almost a 10 hour overnight flight. The flight seemed never ending because I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I started to see mountain tops of the Andes through the clouds and I knew we were close. We landed, got through customs and had about 10 hours to go explore Santiago. Santiago was all new to me, it was the first time I had been somewhere I can’t communicate well with people. Everything was neat as we drove in I saw lots of stray dogs and houses made out of scrap sheet metal. Then once we got to downtown we started in the market square and walked up to San Cristobal Which has the huge Virgin Mary statue and a zoo, weird combination but it was real cool. On the way we saw tons of street vendors and the dirtbike police. We also had lunch on top of San Cristobal. The prices for most things seem about the same (unless it’s a street vendor)- even though the exchange rate is near 500 pesos per dollar. So a nice meal is still about 20 american dollars but the alpaca hat I bought was only 5 dollars. After San Cristobal we walked back through the city then took a cab to the airport and left for Punta Arenas

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Another site

I think I am finished packing for the most part. At this point it’s hard to explain how excited I am but it’s difficult to imagine what ill see or do because of how unique this trip is. Anyways I have found another useful site with a live webcam and temperature updates at Palmer Station. It is http://4dgeo.whoi.edu/tsg/.

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Packing and preparing

Now that I only have 6 days untill my plane takes off Antarctica is all I can think about. I think I have almost everything packed but clothes, which includes things like sea sickness medicine, reading material for the flight, and some more things that were recommended by people who have already been. I also keep checking the weather looking for information about Palmer Station (the research station I’m going to in Antarctica) and Punta Arenas, Chile. I was actually surprised to see that its only-Ჵ degrees fahrenheit at Palmer Station today. I expected much colder but I wont be mad if it’s not. If you are interested in learning a little about Palmer Station they have a website at http://pal.lternet.edu/-which even has a link to a webcam.

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2 weeks to go

Less then two weeks now untill i leave. I was notified that I am physically qualified to go after I passed many blood tests, a full physical examination, and a full dental examination. The worst part to me were the blood tests because I am scared of needles but I’m relieved that I passed and hopefully I wont have to give blood for awhile. Now I’m focusing on what I need to pack. The cold weather gear will be provided befor we set sail for Antarctica so I do not have to pack every coat I own but while we are in Chile we will wear our own clothes and it will still be quite cold. I also got my flight itinerary we will have two stops before we arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile one in Texas the other in Santiago, Chile. We have a long layover in Satiago so I hope I get to see some of the city. I’m really not looking forward to this long flight but I guess it will give me a chance to practice my Spanish. I have also been asked to go on the news. I will be on channel 10 in Terre Haute on Tuesday the 17. It will be live so I need to practice a little before hand but I think I’ll be alright.

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Waiting

It seems like I have been waiting on this trip for eternity but now it’s less than 30 days away the whole thing is becoming more real. It’s hard to imagine in about 40 days I will be walking in Antarctica. I have looked over pictures for the past month trying to anticipate what I will experience. It still has not sunk in completely but I’m sure the day we get on the plane I will be grinning from ear to ear just thinking “It’s finally here.”

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About

I’ve lived in Terre Haute my entire life. I was an athelete in high school. Now I am going into my Sophomore year at ISU as a geology major. I also do research in oceanography. In my free time I like to scuba dive, hang out with friends, play sports, and do almost anything outside.

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