November 17, 2006
Promptly at noon four of us (Drs. Bob Dziak and Haru Matsumoto, Joe Haxel and myself) left PDX to begin our Antarctic adventure. Last year we shipped the hydrophones and much of our equipment three months prior to our departure date. This time, however, we are traveling with most of our equipment, including the small ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) that we hope to deploy in Deception Island.
Our flight first took us to Dallas where we rendezvoused with Dr. Kate Stafford, a specialist in the study of marine mammals from the University of Washington. Mark and Stacy Schatzman, former colleagues from Oregon, whisked us away for a taste of authentic Texas cuisine. When we returned to the airport, Andrew Young, an artist and educator from Chicago, joined us. Andrew, an Illinois Arts Council Grantee, will lend his educational and creative leanings to record new and changing events in the harsh environment that is Antarctica.
More than nine hours of flight, and three additional time zones, separates Dallas, Texas from Santiago, Chile.
In Santiago the final member of the U.S. team joined us: Dr. DelWayne Bohnenstiehl from North Carolina State University. Del is the co-principal investigator of this NOAA research project and has worked with Bob in the past. His current research efforts include monitoring earthquakes and undersea eruptions around the world. Del also uses hydrophones to monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and has detected sounds of ice movement thousand of kilometers distant. Del is anticipating being able to locate and understand what is generating these sound signals.
The flight from Santiago to Puerto Montt was heralded by clear skies and broad vistas. Magnificent scenes of the Andes’ snow-capped mountains, slopes etched by streams and blue tinged lakes, continually swept the view from our aircraft. As last year’s flight was marked with cloud cover, this perspective was both welcomed and unexpected. We can only hope for similar weather conditions during the research cruise.
Though the weather remained mild throughout the day, high clouds blanketed the sky between Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas. The temperature dropped from above 15 C (60 F) to 10 degrees (50 F). But if you have the opportunity to travel by air through Chile, I can highly recommend LAN Airlines. Both the comfort and service exceed those provided by any of today’s U.S. airlines.
As we approached Punta Arenas, I eagerly scanned the coastline, looking for the Russian vessel RV Yuzhmorgeologiya. This 300 foot Russian icebreaker will be our base of operations while in Antarctica. After landing we joined her at the dock, dropping off the ROV and other equipment. We spent Saturday night ashore before boarding the RV Yuzhmorgeologiya on Sunday morning.