On Nov. 30th, we left Palmer Station and headed for King George Island and the NOAA field camp, dubbed Copabanga, where we were able to go ashore and see dense penguin colonies (with all three species - Gentoos, Adelies, and Chinstraps - apparently co-existing), while we hauled trash and propane tanks from the field camp. With good weather holding, the LMG got underway for Punta Arenas about 12:00 Noon.
For a short while, we thought the Drake Passage would lie down for our transit. But by the afternoon of Nov 30th, it was clear that we were in for a usual Drake crossing. Winds gusted over 50 kts and we pitched and rolled our way into the wind and through 5 m swells (Fig. 1). By morning, we reached the Straits of Maire (Isla de Estados), where we were more protected from the winds and waves, and conditions improved.
Figure 1. Wind speed gusted over 50 kts (left) and wave heights were over 5 m (right) during our crossing of Drake Passage on 29-30 November 2011.
We pulled up to the dock in Punta Areanas about 10:00 AM on Dec. 1st. After the ship was cleared through Chilean customs, we were free to disembark. The science teams were allowed to stay onboard the LMG for the night, but some of us had reservations for nearby hotels (Fig. 2). In any case, everyone headed into Punta Arenas for some land-based R&R.
Figure 2 (left to right): The ship pulls up to the dock in Punta Arenas; our welcome party includes port agents and customs officials; soon the science teams are free to disembark and enjoy a sunny Spring afternoon in town. Photos Ann Bucklin
A post-cruise dinner the LMG11-10 was held that evening at Las Marmitas Restaurant (Fig. 3). Our celebratory dinner - which was also our Captain's birthday - concluded the cruise activities, which were judged overall to be both successful and enjoyable. The next day or soon thereafter, most of the scientists headed for home.
Figure 3. Everyone turned out for the LMG11-10 post-cruise dinner, which was also a birthday party for Captain Joe Abshire. Photos Peter H. Wiebe
So our Southern Ocean adventure is finished! We will keep our memories and mental images of Antarctica with us forever. We all feel that we have witnessed some of the most stunningly beautiful and unique landscapes and ocean vistas that our Earth can offer. But we are also longingly wishing for the comfort and welcome of home!
-- Ann Bucklin (University of Connecticut)