February 28, 2006
Funded by the
National Science Foundation
Office of Polar Programs
Location: Latitude 53° S, Longitude 70° 30' W
Air Temperature: 16°C
A few days ago we left the U.S. to start our trip south, having to leave behind a few friends that were with us last year. Nonetheless, I was happy to again be greeted by the sign in Punta Arenas, Chile, that reads "Welcome to the most austral city in the world." I can't say that I felt the same about a poster I saw announcing a new business: "The southest most McDonald's in the world."
Many of the ship's crew and drill crew had been in Punta Arenas for several days before the science party came to town. We arrived to find all of the preparations for drilling in the Weddell Sea under way and going well. Unfortunately, some equipment from last year could not be located in the warehouse and other materials were delayed in shipping and in customs. Some of the HQ core barrel rods, for piggyback drilling, were among the missing items. We did not want to sail without this critical equipment. After many phone calls, Andy, the drilling superintendent, located some HQ pipe at a coal exploration site about 100 miles away, much of that distance on dirt roads. The future mine is located on a very isolated and beautiful island, Isla Riesco. Andy and the very adept agents helping with the port call convinced the engineers from GeoTek to give us a few pieces of their HQ size rods. I am pretty sure that they thought we might be crazy-we drove into a very remote location and simply said "Hi, we're going to Antarctica tomorrow. May we borrow some of your pipes?" Whether through good luck or good karma, or due to an unexpectedly large bill that might arrive some day, they happily let us pick through the yard and take what we needed. It is a bit sad to think about what Isla Riesco might look like in a few years when this mine is really going.
With this errand completed, we are now almost ready to sail. Final fuel will come on tomorrow morning along with final groceries and one last DHL package. So, we will sail on the morning of March first, just several hours later than originally planned. I am anxious to go!
Best Wishes, Julia Smith Wellner
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