A lot of firsts
The past couple of days have been a lot of firsts – which is extremely refreshing when all you have seen the past 5 days is water. The crab researches are doing a portion of their survey work on the Palmer and then transferring onto a Swedish research vessel named the Oden. They finished the survey work that was assigned for this cruise, allowing us to pack up our things and begin steaming south again towards the Amundsen Sea – where the Oden will hopefully meet us. I say hopefully because Punta Arenas had been experiencing 50 – 80 mph winds that prevented boats from leaving or entering the harbor. In addition to the weather delays, Spain had an air strike and there was a large snow storm in France. Both events prevented scientists from coming into Punta Arenas. As we move closer and closer to the polynya we began to see larger and larger ice chunks. This afternoon the ice chunks were so large they sounded as if they were scrapping off piece of the side of the boat as we passed them. Small ice burgs have also begun to become visible!! I also saw my first two whales. We think they were humpback but they were so far in the distance that all was visible was the spray of water out of their blow hole. We are expecting to start breaking our way into the polynya Wednesday night into Thursday morning. I am so excited for this! Seals tend to hang out on the patches of ice as we glide on by and whales tend to play in the wake of the boat as we break ice for them. Thursday night will be our first day on station and we will most likely be up into the wee hours of the morning doing work. We will then be on station at least once a day and begin working around the clock. The plan that has been created is 12-18 hrs on and 6-8 hrs off - time of the day will not matter at this point as long as you are sleeping and eating whenever you can.
We crossed the Antarctic Circle last night (66.66°S). Crossing the Antarctic Circle, as well as the Arctic Circle and the Equator, is a very ceremonial occasion. Having knocked one off my belt I am beginning to feel more like a salty. You can see some more photos and details about the crossing ceremony on the blog antarcticaspire.org
hope all is well