Antarctic Gateway, Punta Arenas, Chile

This year I am participating in a US Antarctic Program (USAP) research cruise in the Western Antarctic Peninsula region. One of the closest ports to the Peninsula region is Punta Arenas Chile. The USAP, Chilean National Antarctic Program and several tour operators all use Punta Arenas as their gateway to Antarctica.

Punta Arenas is a great little Chilean town. Everyone is very friendly, which may explain why things move so slowly down here. There is a rather elaborate cemetery in town, that is well tended by the families of the deceased. It looks like a small version of the famous Recoletta cemetery in Buenos Aires Argentina.

Punta Arenas has a long history of explorers and scientists passing through. Magellan passed this way and is still celebrated in town. There are several statues honoring Magellan including this gem…

When we sail, we will sail through the Beagle Channel, which honors Charles Darwin’s famous ship. But before we set out we must honor Magellan by kissing his foot, seriously.

Magellan is atop the monument.  He is supported by a mermaid (naturally), and two native Patagonians. The foot of El Indio on the right hand side hangs down low. It has been polished from everyone kissing it and rubbing it for good luck and a safe voyage. I watched several ladies give it big sloppy kisses- so I used some hand disinfectant and gave it an affectionate rub..

We had a busy few days in port getting the sampling gear and the lab set up. Our Chief Scientist personally tested and inspected the new cod end protector. The part of the fishing net where the catch accumulates is called the cod end, it is very important to keep it safe from hitting the bottom or banging into the ship.

I helped put together the rest of the net that we will use to catch krill and other zooplankton. It was actually pretty easy.

The microscopes are all unpacked and secured, the net is ready, we have sorted out important things like where they keep potato chips, so we are ready to set sail. We leave tomorrow morning, or rather we leave to go to the fuel dock tomorrow morning and then wait 16 hours for the tanks to fill.

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