Posts Tagged ‘Punta Arenas’


Punta Arenas to Rothera Research Station

October 31, 2012

Looking out to the west on the Dash-7 about 20 minutes before landing in Rothera Research Station.

Terry writes:

I attended a short Dash-7 flight briefing at the Almagro with my twelve fellow passengers. Then they all piled into two vans, while I got VIP treatment again as the sole US Antarctic Program/DAMCO passenger to the Punta Arenas airport, this time with Octavio and a driver. The four-hour flight to Rothera was uneventful until the final half hour or so when the Antarctic Peninsula and Adelaide Island sea ice, glaciers, and mountains came into view and people crowded around windows to take photos.

Got off the plane. Shook hands with Clem Collins, the aircraft operations chief who I had met during my previous visit to Rothera in January and February 2010. Following a brief orientation meeting, I touched base with science liaison Tamsin Gray, met my designated field assistant Malcolm Airey, and moved into my room in Giant house. My roommate is Mike Hambrey, who works with glacial geomorphologist Neil Glasser. I am to share a science office in Old Bransfield with Daniel Farinotti, who will also be doing GPS and radar work on Scar Inlet as well as on Starbuck and Flask Glaciers.

Took a short walk around the point and took a few photos. Lots of snow on the ground and lots of sunshine here. Got training all day tomorrow and part of Friday.

Rothera station looking north from the top of Memorial Peak during my walk around the point.


Much ado about batteries

October 30, 2012

A set of eight batteries left over from the 2010 Nathaniel B. Palmer LARISSA cruise that are to be sent to Rothera Research Station to replace any British Atlantic Survey batteries that I use on my current trip.

Terry writes:

Went for a bit longer run northeast of the hotel along the ocean highway. Walked over to the AGUNSA warehouse, which is next door to the DAMCO warehouse and is being used for staging the equipment for the Lake Ellsworth crew. Their leader, Chris Hill, asked if I had any extra batteries. I said I need five myself and would check back with him.

Back over at DAMCO, I met Gene Domack who had arrived on the Lawrence M. Gould (LMG) icebreaker around three in the morning. We started looking for some of Gene’s batteries that he had unloaded that morning off the LMG, but we immediately found a set of eight batteries with a C-514 TCN label assigned to Ted Scambos that were from our 2010 LARISSA Palmer cruise. I gave two to Chris Hall of the Lake Ellsworth drilling project, so when they make their big discovery of unique bugs in the lake this season, we can say, “Those guys used some of our batteries!” Chris was going to charge and test them, and let me know if they are okay. He and his crew will be stopping in Rothera next week.

Took a nostalgic tour with Chris Linden of DAMCO to the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP) icebreaker, which is in Punta Arenas until January. Got invited to the end of cruise dinner at Mamasita’s, drank too much wine, crawled to a couple of bars with the dwindling LMG crew, and staggered back to the hotel around 2:30 a.m.


Prep work in Punta Arenas

October 29, 2012

Terry writes:

Took a fifteen-minute walk to the DAMCO warehouse from the hotel and met Octavio, Gonzalo, and Paul who helped me check out my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing. Gonzalo gave me my Iridium satellite phone, and Marcella brought me my four cases, which she had kept in the DAMCO van overnight since the warehouse was closed.

I was told that I wouldn’t be flying the next day due to delays in some British Atlantic Survey arrivals to Punta Arenas. Bought some crackers, cheese, cookies, and fruit at the local Unimarc, tested my satellite phone with a quick call to Sue, and the spent then entire evening until 11 p.m. watching the CNN International coverage of Hurricane Sandy as it came ashore.


Antarctica for one, please.

November 2, 2011

Ted writes:

I’m beginning to feel like some kind of migrating bird. For the past three years, like clockwork, as the calendar passes Halloween and heads into the leafless days of November, I find myself boarding planes and flying south. Once again, I’m at South America’s jumping off point for Antarctica, Punta Arenas, Chile. Usually I have someone from our team with me, like the redoubtable Terry Haran, or the indomitable Rob Bauer, or the highly toutable Jenn Bohlander, but this year it’s just me. Me, and some top-drawer assistants at the British Antarctic Survey base, Rothera (I have yet to meet them).

I’ve heard Punta’s climate described as windy sunshine, and it’s a description that sticks. I’ve been here 4 or 5 of the calendar months, and the only question one seems to ask about the weather is, “How windy is it now?”  The answer ranges from “Kinda,” to “Holy vacuum cleaner, Batman!” A bad hair day here means actually having your hair blown off. There is an occasional spritz of stinging rain, but for the most part it is intense sunshine, scudding low clouds, haggard-looking llamas and, well, wind.

The goal this year for the LARISSA Glaciology project is to repair and upgrade two of the installed measurement stations (a GPS station on a rocky cape, and our AMIGOS compadres sitting on the Scar Inlet shelf, a remnant we suspect will someday disintegrate like the Larsen B Ice Shelf did nearly ten years ago. We don’t plan to visit the other AMIGOS, on Flask Glacier, although it now sits up to its mechanical neck in snow. (Later, we will return for it, too.) The most important part of this year’s visit is to install a new system, with a much better camera, on a cliff overlooking the Scar Inlet shelf. The camera will provide a series of images showing how the ice front and surface change during a summer, and hopefully some details of the processes during a break-up. All the gear is already waiting down in Rothera.  If we can manage this installation, it could be a fantastic record of one of the big open questions in glaciology: how does an ice shelf disintegrate? But we have to get it set up out there first. I suppose I should mention the name of the cliff is Cape Disappointment. Not a good omen. Stay tuned.


A Ride on the NASA IceBridge DC8

November 4, 2010

Ted writes:

Jenn and Martin are here in Punta Arenas. All is well, and we did the clothing issue right after they flew here on Tuesday. Jennifer is now known as “Polar Jenn” (see photo).

There is another group here in town, working on the NASA IceBridge project. IceBridge is a research program that measures the large ice sheets using several highly instrumented aircraft. NSIDC is the data management center for IceBridge, and I am working with a couple of people at NSIDC to augment the archived data with some derived products – taking two measurements, or three, and calculating a new parameter. The aircraft they use here is a DC-8, a large old jetliner that NASA has used for years on many projects. It can carry up to 40 people, in addition to the dozens of instruments, so Martin (who is on the IceBridge User Working Group for NSIDC) and I decided to request a flight on board. We got our chance Thursday.

The flight plan was simple: a round trip to the South Pole. The concept is to use a very accurate laser altimeter (actually two) to survey an area where many satellite data tracks converge near the pole. This will allow a careful calibration of all the data (mostly ICESat -1 data).  On the map, the route looked a bit like a golf tee with a golf ball on top, but very stretched out. At 9am we were lifting off the runway, bound for the South Pole at 40,000 feet and 12 hours round-trip.

The feel aboard the IceBridge DC8 is somewhere between a commercial flight and a shuttle mission. Everyone is relaxed and chatty, joking around, but there is an undercurrent of technical precision. We all wear headphones when seated to communicate with the pilots. Shortly after take-off, they announced they were ready to “execute maneuvers.” I looked at Martin quizzically. What maneuvers? The huge plane then began to pitch up and down like a car on a hilly road, followed by some snappy wing rolls. Those big planes we fly in every day? they are a -lot- more nimble than we ever let them be in the airline world.

Inside, it is surprisingly large: most of the seats are removed, and the remaining 40 seats are all business class size, scattered around the plane. Most of them are in pairs right in front of large electronics stations for the instruments. The sensors are poking out of about seven holes in the aircraft, and there’s a big pod, like a blister, on the bottom of the plane that holds a special ice-penetrating radar. We have two lasers, three cameras, something like 12 GPS, an infrared heat-sensor, and a coffee maker. I’m pretty sure the panic starts when the coffee maker breaks down.

It was a long, rather peaceful day, chatting with the instrument teams, getting ideas for the data products and the archiving work that NSIDC has to do, snacking, and watching the largest mass of ice on earth roll beneath us.


The Palmer Departs

January 5, 2010

Ted writes:

The Palmer slipped the surly bonds of the Punta Arenas pier at 5:20 p.m. yesterday, in a beautiful evening sun. The gear was stowed, labs secured, and a full compliment of staff and scientists were aboard. The temperature was about 62 degrees F, and there was a 15-knot breeze. We ate dinner at 6, and after a day of rushing to do the final shopping and securing, the adventurers relaxed, talked with energetic anticipation of the plans ahead and the past cruises that they’d enjoyed.

The AMIGOS crew–Ted, Terry, Ronald, Erin, and Martin–were continuing to build the system software, especially for the new GPS boards, and improve the radar acquisition and analysis software as well. I downloaded our image collection for the survey regions and re-evaluated our selected sites with respect to crevasses, using MODIS, Landsat-7, ASTER, Formosat-2, and other data.

Some early adjustments to the plans included adding a reconnaissance flight to evaluate as many of the sites as possible prior to any deployment of GPS or AMIGOS. We’re planning a loop flight across the Crane and Flask Glaciers, to literally see the lay of the land and the potential risks. Current heavy sea ice conditions  in the western Weddell Sea mean that other science operations may be delayed or progress more slowly than planned, so the AMIGOS team may see a lot of action in the early part of the cruise. We are planning to install three to four sites  between January  10th and 20th.

The sun set off the stern starboard bow. The Palmer is sailing east and north, towards the Atlantic, before a hard starboard turn towards the Drake Passage.


Waiting for flying weather

December 5, 2009

Ted, Rob, and Erin write:

We had another flight delay today, because of poor flying conditions along our route. We will try again Sunday for a flight to Rothera Station and we hope to hit the ground running when we arrive. At Rothera Stations, we need to test the radar equipment, look over the field equipment, and help load our cargo into the ski plane.

In the meantime, we decided to explore a bit of the local countryside and rented an auto for a short back road tour. As luck would have it, we not only found a spectacular vista, but also stumbled across a great spot to have a meal and good conversation: Estancia Rio Verde. Estancio Rio Verde is located northwest of Punta Arenas, on the shore of the Skyring Sound. Many thanks to our new friends, Fernanda and Rodrigo, who offered good food and good conversation.


More preparation in Punta Arenas

December 4, 2009

Rob, Ted, and Erin write:

University of Alaska glaciologist Erin Pettit arrived Thursday evening after two days of travel from Alaska. With Erin’s arrival, our team is now complete and we’re ready to head south. A slight weather delay is expected, pushing back our departure from Punta Arenas by a day or two.

Friday morning, while Erin was visiting the AGUNSA offices for her extreme weather gear issue, Ted worked on correspondence with various members of the British Antarctic Survey, while Rob looked into procuring additional electrical adapters, extension cords, and (most importantly to Rob) coffee for the field camp.


Punta Arenas, Chile

December 3, 2009

Rob writes:

We arrived in Punta Arenas last night around 10 p.m. local time. Carola, a representative from the support group, AGUNSA, met us at the airport and arranged transportation to a local hotel. It was good to finally take a break from traveling. We had about 28 hours of airports and airplanes since leaving Denver, and we were ready for a little sleep.

Ted and Magellan

Ted Scambos rubs the toe of a figure on the Magellan Statue, for good luck

This morning we walked through town on our way to the AGUNSA warehouse at the seaport. We made sure to pay homage to the statue of Ferdinand Magellan. For good luck in Antarctica, you must rub the brass toe of one of the figures on the Magellan statue. If you travel through Christchurch, New Zealand, you have to go find the statue of the famous polar explorer Roald Amundsen and rub his nose. That statue of Amundsen has what is possibly the shiniest nose of any you’ll see!

Further on, at the warehouse, the equipment manager, Octavio, outfitted us for the wilds of the Antarctic Peninsula. Many thanks, Octavio!

After gathering various odds and ends, we strolled down the pier for a spur of the moment visit to the British Research vessel RRS James Cook, one of the newest research ships on the sea. Built in Norway, the James Cook operates worldwide, from the tropics to the edge of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, enabling cutting edge multidisciplinary research. The Chief Officer, Richard, showed us around the very modern vessel, pointing out the research facilities and the impressive engineering spaces.

Later this afternoon, we’ll be out gathering last minute equipment for the field (a pair of field glasses or binoculars and some treats from the local market).

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