Letter from Chief Scientist, Bob Beardsley

Sent on 14 February 2003



Hi All,


It is now Friday evening and we are streaming across the Drake Passage towards the west Antarctic Peninsula and Palmer Station.  The sky has been mostly clear, with 10-20 knots from the W and a pretty smooth ride. We've seen at least three types of albatrosses (sooty, black-browed, and wander) along the way. They are quite large and very graceful as they close to the waves.


Our departure from Punta Arenas was quite an event.  We started Monday morning to get the L.M. Gould ready to sail on Wednesday morning. Refueling the ship took most of Monday, and we were able to get our mooring winch spotted on the main deck and a few other things transferred to the ship before stopping for the day. During the night, the winds started building and by Tuesday morning, they were steady 30-45 knots, with frequent gusts to 50 and occasional ones to 60 knots.  The Chilean Navy controls the dock we use, and chose to “close” the dock for all work due to the high winds. Around 1600, the winds started to drop but the Navy kept the dock closed the entire day.  On Wednesday morning, the winds had built up again to 25-35 knots, but we were able to load between 0830 and 1000 using just the small knuckle crane before winds increased to 30-45 knots and the Navy again closed the dock. At noon, ETD slipped to 2400, with the hope that the winds would decrease in the afternoon like the previous day. They didn't, but about 1830, the Navy opened the dock (so that an important Chilean Navy transport ship could dock without delay) and we hustled to load the rest of our equipment plus supplies for the ship and Palmer Station (PS).  With many helping, we first worked with the knuckle crane to transfer equipment from the dock to the main deck, then an army of helpers (including Captain Robert) carried the boxes, etc. to their places, while another army carried all the fresh food supplies by hand over the gangplank to their storage rooms.  Finally the main crane was used to load a 20' container and fuel for PS, plus move some of our equipment up to the 01 deck. We completed the job about 2300, and left the dock with pilot abroad at 2400.  It felt great to get underway and were thankful that the Navy ship just had to dock when she did or else we might still be at the dock in Punta Arenas. We will try to cut our first stop at PS short to get back some of the shiptime we lost due to the high winds on Tuesday.


So far, all is going well.  The weather and seas in the Drake have been kind to us (only a few not feeling ok).  The food and variety has been especially good, in part because several on board are vegetarians and had requested vegetarian options at all meals. Most of us on this cruise sailed with Captain Robert and the crew last year, so there is a nice feeling of being with old friends.