Wednesday, November 22

Nov. 20: Posted for Bob Dziak

November 20, 2006:

Hello this is Bob Dziak and I am the U.S. chief scientist of the Antarctic Hydrophone experiment. I am checking in as we steam our way southwest from Chile Patagonia around the east side of Tierra del Fuego toward the Drake Passage. It is a gloriously clear, sunny day and I must say it is an awesome feeling to be crossing waters where some of the most important events in human history have occurred and some of the greatest figures of civilization have traversed. For example, the protected passage way west out of Punta Arenas harbor to the Pacific Ocean is named the Beagle Straits in honor of Charles Darwin’s ship. The passage way east to the Atlantic Ocean is called the straits of Magellen for the legendary Portuguese discoverer, and of course the open water between South America and Antarctica is named after the Sir Frances Drake who first blazed his way through these rough seas in the 1500s. The snow-capped peaks of Tierra del Fuego are visible off our starboard side as we steam south. The “land of fire” was so called by Magellen because of the large amounts of smoke on the island they attributed to the warning fires of hostile natives telling them to stay away, although the fires were more likely caused from lightening strikes or even the smoke my have just been dense fog.

Excitement is very high as the expedition begins. The weather is stunningly beautiful and everyone is in a correspondingly good mood. All hands are diligently preparing their equipment and themselves for the cold adventure ahead. We expect to arrive at the first hydrophone site in the Drake Passage in two and a half days. The forecast is for 20-25 knot winds and 6-9 foot seas – downright tropical by southern ocean standards! But as the Russian Captain Igor keeps reminding us, “of course this is the weather now, but in 15 minutes, who knows?” There have been many discussions about the hydrophone instrument recoveries, but also a lot of focus (and excitement) has been on the work to be done once we are inside the steaming volcanic harbor of Deception Island. We are also eagerly awaiting our first at sea encounter with an iceberg (meaning only that we see it from a safe distance) to confirm we are nearing our frozen destination.

-- Bob Dziak

(Photo: The science team aboard the Yuzhmorgeologiya)


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