Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tracking my voyage

I have just found a cool site that tracks various vessels out at sea. Should you wish to see where I am at, as I head back to Punta Arenas, Chile, you can go here. I'll also be working on the Nathaniel B. Palmer when it arrives at Punta Arenas as well, but only while it is in port. You can see the progress of its Journey here.

I'll be traveling on the boat from March 31st, through early morning, April 4th.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wrapping up

Since the station staff get Sunday's off, we tried to get most of our work all wrapped up today, which, for the most part was accomplished. The weather was really nice this morning, so we managed to get out on a boat ride.

Here's a little pictorial of my adventure. Note that comments listed are for the picture beneath the text, and you can always click on the picture for a larger view. I didn't do much processing out of my camera here, mostly just converted RAW to jpeg.

A view of the LMG and palmer station as we zoom away in our zodiac

An Elephant Seal track on one of the local islands. Is up to you to figure out what the dark spots are going up the middle of its path. ;)

A female (so says station staff) elephant seal peaking up to see who's looking at her.

A pair of Adelie Penguins (yay, I saw a real penguin in nature, and not in the zoo) Aren't they cute? :)

This used to be an ice bridge, but has just recently collapsed.
Here's a view of the LMG as we come back to station. You can see that we got to "drive" though a decent sized section of brash ice. Brash ice is like a slushy mixture of ice and water. All of the ice you see here comes from all the glacier calvings in the harbor

Tomorrow I hope to get out for a nice hike, maybe up to the top of the glacier, or out for a walk around "Old Palmer," which is where Palmer station used to be located, but has since been completely torn down. You can only get there by boat, but from what I understand has some great views.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nothing Much

Today was spent working again. About the only thing unusual I did today was spend some time in the outdoor hot tub. I would imagine not to many people can say they've been in a hot tub at Antarctica, so I figured why not? It was cool to just hang out outdoors, near the water and hear the glacier calving in background. I'm still in awe about the noise it makes. It must be magnificent to be close to something like that when it happens (though not too close).

Tomorrow I hope to go assist some of the station staff with some work up on the glacier, and then maybe, and hopefully go for a ride on a zodiac. Its important we test the range of the wireless network here :) If not there is always Sunday. I hope to use Sunday for a nice long hike.

I could seriously see myself spending a period of time here. The community appeals to me, as well as the science research going on. I visited the aquarium tonight as well. They have a few display tanks with some of the local see life. A lot of the sea stars, sea spiders, and urchins are really cool. I'll try and get some pictures of them before I leave. Until later!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Work Day

Today was pretty much totally focused on my job tasking, which isn't all that exciting. As a result of working a long day, I can't say I was in all the great of a mood. So I decided that I would go for a walk in the "Backyard" after dinner before sunset. It's still quite overcast around here, and taking a picture of anything and making it look interesting and worthy of framing quite difficult.

I can only describe the backyard as the space between Palmer Station and the Glacier coming down from the island. Its very rocky, all granite from what I can tell. The only vegetation I've seen is some form of Moss on some of the rocks near the sea. I found a colony of some sort of bird to, but have yet to identify them.

The temperature around here still isn't to bad, but we get an occasional wind gust that is pretty harsh. One of them almost blew me over, as I wasn't ready for it. Its kind of neat though, as you can look towards the glacier and see a gust blowing all kinds of snow up, and then watch the ripples in the water as it continues to move towards you.

Another really neat thing here, and kind of depressing at the same time, is to witness the Glacier calving into the water. Its amazing how loud it is. Almost like someone shooting a canon off in the distance. Sometimes you can even feel it, if you are outside. I can't say I've actually seen a piece fall though. I've only heard it, then look out to see a large cloud of snow and ice where it fell, and a significant wave moving away from the site.

So here's the latest picture update. It kind of gives you an idea of where I'm at, and whats around the station. I know I'm not putting up tons of pictures, but like I said, I'm having a hard time getting pictures I'm really prowd of. I've taken about 350 so far probably. Many of them a like, and will provide good memories. But I don't feel many of them on their own have much merit.

I'm hoping for a sunny day so that we can get out on a boat and see some wildlife. There isn't much around the station itself, unfortunately, but i guess there are lots of islands around that provide homes for the local wildlife.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Land Ho!

Yay! We've finally arrived at Palmer Station at 0730 this morning. Most of the day so far has been filled with orientation meetings, tours, and job tasking (the reason I am here). Sadly... my body is telling me to get back on the boat, but for a fairly odd reason... Those of you who are familiar with the feeling you get after running / walking on a treadmill for a long period of time, and then stepping off, will know kinda what I'm talking about. The people I am traveling with call it "Dock Rock." I occasionally get these moments where I feel like my world is still moving. Its really odd, my bunk mate has the same problem, and he said he felt like he was stoned... LOL. It's completely a feeling in my head, and fortunately, not my stomach. Closing my eyes while standing up isn't all that safe yet.

Since I'm not considered station crew (I'll be leaving when the boat leaves) I have to sleep / eat on the boat for my whole stay here, except for a few select meals, Hopefully my "sea legs" won't go away all too much. Being back on the boat kind of helps the dock rock subside a little too. Towards the end of the ride here, I can say that I really didn't notice the boat rock much anymore, unless I looked out a window, to confirm it.

My first impressions of the station are very positive. For being 40+ years old, the place seems like it is in good condition. I went to a presentation to night about the station's history. It's pretty cool. Things sounded like they were much simpler though. Probably because there weren't all these crazy government rules and regulations, and building codes and the such. Also saw pictures of how close the glacier used to be to the station. Its significantly further away now. So far, I've seen a few skuas, a Leopard Seal, and to icebergs calving off the glacier. Unfortunately, I didn't a single picture of any of it.

Speaking of pictures, I've some initial ones up in picasa. You can head over to them here, here and here. It's not all of the pictures I took, just a sampling really. Some could get kind of repetitive if I posted them all. I'm also to lazy to link some to this post right now too. Oh well. I guess that's all I have for now. More to come, stay tuned :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Life at Sea

Not too much to report today... The scenery is pretty much all the same, lots of water around. About the only thing that varies is the visibility, due to haze, etc. There's always a few random birds flying around the boat, but that's not terribly exciting either..

I didn't get much sleep last night. Pretty much all day Yesterday and into this morning we were having 15-20 foot swells, and 30+ knot winds. This caused to boat to rock almost 30 degrees to port or starboard, for a total close 60 degrees of motion in one cycle. The captain says we have to roll 60 degrees completely to one side before we tip over, which helped my worries. Fortunately, my seasickness has subsided and I don't really notice the movement anymore, unless its severe enough to make chairs and other things to fall over. You can't not notice that. Most stuff on board is secured well, but it seems there's always something.

As a result of the rolling, I can't say I slept all that well. I'm on the top bunk, and on the big rolls, I would start to slide off the bed. That made for a long night. The swells should be quite a bit calmer in a few hours as we approach the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands near it. Last I heard, only 19 hours to go, before we reach Palmer Station. Overall, I'd have to say this has been a cool trip so far. I think my favorite place to be, in the boat, is on the bridge. Lots of ambient light is let in through all the windows there, which is always good for
the spirit, and it's fun to talk to the mates.

The reality of where I am, I don't think has sunk into my head much, perhaps that'll change when we arrive on station tomorrow. Oh well. I've got a bunch of pictures ready to upload too, so that should get done sometime tomorrow as well. They aren't really full of action per say, but you should get an idea of where I've been, and what I've seen so far.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Life on the LMG

The trip so far is more good than bad. Going through the straights of Magellan was fun. I've seen a bunch of Oil platforms and some cargo ships. Seen a bunch of birds, mostly Ptarmigans, Albatross, Terns, and the like.

Yesterday, we reached the open waters, and the ride changed quite a bit. Unfortunately, this land lover couldn't keep his lunch down. The sea became "confused" and we were rocking and rolling every which way, in a seemingly random motion. I have no idea how big the swells were, but it was enough. The Med Tech on board has standing orders from doctors to be able to perscribe "the patch" So I hooked myself up with one (along with about half the other people on board, it seems) Both my roommate and I were stuck up in our cabin most of the afternoon.

I think the Amplitude of the waves are just as high today as they were yesterday, but the motion is much more regular. Seems that way anyway. So between that and this patch that ought to last for 3 days, I think I'm going to be all right. I'll try and go without on the way back, I think, just to see if I can just get used to things without Drugs. The stuff leaves my throat feeling very dry and nasty. A known side-effect I was warned about.

Today I was able to participate in some ongoing science projects, though its not all that exciting. We drop Expendable-Bathe-Thermographs (XBT)in the water and it measures the water temperature as it sinks. They have a long thin copper wire that sends info back to the boat. Its neat to see how the temp changes at depth, and how it varies from latitude to latitude.

That's about All I've been up to so far. I've been taking a few pictures here and there, but all the scenery is starting to get pretty dull. Its very overcast today, and you can't see the horizon. All the people on board are very friendly, and like to share their knowledge. It's fun to go up on the bridge and listen to the Mates and Captain talk.

Well, I just wanted to get a note out to everyone and let you know I'm still alive and stuff. I've been limiting my time at staring at a computer screen, just to play it safe, since that's what set me off yesterday. Cheers!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

T minus 3 hours

Our boat is scheduled to leave doc in 3 hours, finally. It seems like I've been here for quite some time now, and I'm ready to get underway with the boat. Let's just hope I have the fortitude to keep my food down. From what I understand, the sailing is pretty smooth for the first 12 hours or so, as we travel through the straights of Magellan, then it gets rougher. Its pretty windy this morning too. I've been able to notice the boat rocking a little bit in the dock, but its not given me any kind of bad feelings. Hopefully I'll be alright. I've also heard rumors that one of the birthing rooms is called "the anti-gravity room" As its located at the forward most point in the ship, of any room. From what I can tell of the floor plans, I have that room. Oh Joy! I took the top bunk, as it has the port hole with a view. I hope I don't regret it.

Punta Arenas is nice. I've got some decent pictures, but since I've been shooting in RAW format, I haven't had a chance to process them to jpegs to upload. I'll make sure I get them all done so I can send them up when I get to Palmer Station. Last night we went to a nice fancy restaurant called "Remezon" where I had some Garlic Soup (amazing!) and some Manta Ray (interesting...)

The boat is pretty cool, even if it is small, its cool to see how things are designed to handle the fact that normally horizontal surfaces aren't always horizontal. The scientific equipment is of course intriguing to me. I wish I could be on a cruise when science would be done, but alas, tis not the mission of this cruise. The food has been really good here too. I had heard cooks in the past just present fried food to the crew, and that's it, but the current cook (Bob) does a really classy job. We've had spice (cumin?) crusted salmon and sea bass, and some other yummy things, of which I have a hard time remembering. I just remember it was good. So as long as I can keep it down, I think it will be a good trip.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Almost there.

So I made it to Punta Arenas, Chili. Landed around 3:30 PM local time (12:30 PM, MDT) Overall, the flight was okay. How can traveling for 22+ hours by economy air actually be good? We were late landing in Santiago, Chili, so we were rushed through customs, and I didn't get to really pay attention to the surroundings our what's going on. About all I noticed was that the area was in a valley, surrounding be pretty tall mountains. It seemed to hold in a lot of particulate in the air. Not sure if you can tell from the bellow picture, but I was able to grab it from the view out the window of my plane before it took

Punta Arenas seems nice. It's certainly not like any other place I've been before. Not really sure how to describe it. Most of the buildings and roofs are all kinds of bright colors, which are neat. There is a square in the middle of town full of what seem to be really old trees and a big Bronze monument. Roomer has it, you have to rub its toe before sailing off for a good trip. I'll be sure to get a picture of it on my return. I'd bet there some cool history here. Some buildings seem pretty neat. Below is a picture of that square as seen from the window of my hotel room.

I'll get my ECW (extreme cold weather) gear tomorrow at 9 AM, and then embark on the LMG (aka the Gould) at 3 PM. I'm not sure about connectivity, but I think there should be a way to post here. I'll spend the first day getting through the straights of Magellan, the next 2 in the Drake Passage ,and the last day under the shelter of the Antarctic Peninsula, heading to Anvers Island where Palmer Station is located.

So given that this is my first time to the Southern Hemisphere, I was excited to flush a toilet. Unfortunately, they are very European in design here, and just seem to "flush down." So I can't confirm that the water acutally spins in the opposite direction yet. I'll fill up the tub a bit tomorrow when I take a shower, in hopes to make the observation. So other than that, I'd say for anyone else making this trip.... It helps to know a little Spanish (of which I know, very, very little) Adios!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kayland Vertigo High Review

So I have to laugh... Within minutes of posting my previous post, I noticed I had a hit for someone looking for a review on the boots I bought. I figured why hold out for anyone looking. I'll go take a picture of my boots and start my review.

Note this is an initial review, and not totally exhaustive since I have only had them for a few weeks.

First, I suppose I should explain a little about myself and background, so you know what angle this review is coming from.

Age: 29
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 145 lbs
Shoe size: 10.5 US

Backpacking Background:
I've spent most of my life playing outdoors, in various sports activities, namely cross-country running and track and field throughout high school. As a child I would go and spend vacations with my Dad up in the Adirondacks in New York state, where we would climb mountains and just have fun. In college, I was a member of the outdoors club and went on various hikes with that group, and began going on more difficult hikes into the high peaks region of the Adirondacks. I've done numerous hikes along the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as a trip to the everglades, and swamps of Georgia. I consider myself a midweight backpacker. When I go backpacking my pack usually weighs between 30 and 40 pounds for hikes up to about a week in length. When with the right group, or by myself, I hike at a moderate pace of 2-4 mph, depending on terrain.

Product Info:
Manufacturer: Kayland
Model: Passage Vertigo High
Year of manufacture: 2008
Shoe Size: 10.5 USA
Color: Havana
Listed Weight: 710 grams ea. (1.5 lbs.)
Weight as delivered: 3.2 pounds for the pair
MSRP: Not listed on web site

Product Description (from website):
This versatile boot delivers outstanding comfort, traction, and stability, scrambling off-trail, or traipsing through mud and snow. Of 110 different models tested, the Vertigo High was awarded the Backpacker Editors’ Choice Award for 2007.
  • Enhanced Rocker
  • Extended Lacing (laces go all the way to the toe)
  • Integrated Absorbing Drive System (IADS) pro
  • Level of rigidity: 5 (out of what?)
  • Sole: Vibram® Tsavo.

Initial Report:
These were the first pair of boots I tried on during my quest to find new hiking boots. My previous pair were EMS brand boots that were gore-tex lined, with a solid full leather upper. After years of wear, the soles had separated from the shoe and were just breaking down. I tried on about 8 different pairs of shoes at 2 different stores, and I came back to these ones. I could tell right away when I put these on, that I'd probably come back to them. Most boots I try on, I tend to find the toe box constricting, and the heel often feels to loose. I find such a fit tends to yield blisters on my heel and big toes. Once I put the Kayland on, my heels felt well supported and adequately confined in such a way that the boot would stay with my heel and little rubbing would occur. The shape seems to be designed around the shape of my foot. I was able to get a good snug fit with the lacing system without feeling like I was cutting off the circulation to my toes. I still had plenty of bend / wiggle room for my toes as well without feeling overly roomy. With a quick walk around the stores, the boot seemed a bit stiffer than what I was used to in a boot, even being brand new. This is actually what I was looking for though. Having just moved to Colorado, I wanted something to provide a little more support for the varied terrain I would be encountering during my attempts to begin summiting the 14ers.

The footbeds that come with the boot seem to be thicker, and potentially more durable than I've seen in other boots as well. The heel section has a black waffle type material on them, topped with a white felt/foam material thats maybe 1/8 inch thick, and the final interface on top being what seems to be an orange leather/suede type material.

Instead of Gore-tex, the Vertigo High's use Event technology to provide water proofing beyond the treated leather. Since its still mostly winter, I can't say how well this stuff lets sweat out of the boot, and keeps water from getting in. My feet do sweat a fair amount when hiking, and no matter what, my feet are usually just slightly damp when removing shoes, despite the activity. Results are no different with these boots thus far. I've hiked through shallow mud and water with them and have no complaints with the water repellency. The tongue is gusseted to the sides of the boot up to the top of the laces where the metal eyes are.

The toe of boot has a rubberized fabric that seems to be glued to the upper. It seems durable and should provide good protection against abrasion around the areas that typically get the most abuse.

As I mentioned previously, the lacing system extends down to the toe and allows me to get even tension across the whole of my foot. When tightening the laces, they don't relax much when you let go of the laces, this is nice as you don't have to keep constant tension on them when tying things up. The lace hooks seem to be well designed are are made of metal. My previous boots hooks stuck out a bit, and I would sometime catch the loops of my laces on the opposite foot when walking, these seem to be designed in a way that this shouldn't happen.

On their first few hikes outdoors, they've seen conditions from dry, loose dirt, to hard packed dirt. Rocks, and grass. Fresh fallen Snow all the way to hard packed snow and ice. The vibram sole seems to grip well when climbing largish rocks, even wet. The are doing well in all the terrain. I'm enjoying the stiffness of these soles, and the uppers are breaking in nice. No blisters, or even hot spots to date. I've done a few 4-6 miles hikes with them.

Overall, my general impressions of this boot is that it is extremely well made, with strong stitching and sturdy construction. I feel like the designers really took into consideration the structure of the foot (at least those similar to mine) when engineering this boot. Its truly a joy to hike in them. I feel like they return a good portion of the energy of my stride and help propel me forward. I look forward to many years of adventure with this boot. I recommend that anyone looking for a serious boot to get them where they need to go, consider this one.

Should you have any questions about these, just post a comment, and I'll do my best to reply in a timely manner.


Well, this is likely my last post before I head to the southern hemisphere, and ultimately, the southern most continent on the planet. Yes, you can say that I am excited. I'm quite nervous too. I've stocked up on some meclizine (I keep wanting to call this stuff mescaline, perhaps I 'm wishing it was, subconsciously) and crystallized ginger, in hopes to curb any unpleasant feelings that this land lover has never felt before. Hopefully I won't need it. I've never been motion sick before, but the ocean cruise is a new experience for me, and I figure I should at least come prepared, especially since the vessel is flat bottomed. I am required to work 12 hours days on the boat after all, being sick isn't conducive to work. The long hours shouldn't be too bad, I don't think. Not like there's much to do on a boat anyway... Work, eat, sleep, and take pictures. There's no science going on during this cruise, that I am aware of, so I probably won't get to see anything cool from that perspective. Let's just hope that waters of the Drake Passage will cooperate. I've heard the seas can be quite rough, and I've seen pictures of the boat I will be riding with its aft section under water. (sounds like fun, if I knew I wouldn't get sea sick, and was wearing a PFD, dry suit, and GPS locater beacon.) I suspect I'll still prefer bombing down mountain pass roads at 50+ mph on my road bike.

I've pretty much gotten all my stuff together. Camera is working and I'm comfortable with it. I've rented a Canon 70-200mm IS f/2.8L lens so I can only blame myself for the awful pictures I'm sure I'll take. From my experience with the lens so far, I'm sure I'm going to have a hard time sending it back to [speaking of which, plug for, they have great customer service and very friendly staff, highly recommended]. I have to laugh, it's one heavy lens, and almost doubles the weight of all my camera gear put together, sans tripod.

I've got a pair of noise isolating headphones for the 11+ hour combined plane ride down to Chili too. I went the route of the Shure e3c's. From all the reviews, they seem to do as well as, if not better than active noise canceling headphones. The though of stopping sound from getting in makes more sense than adding noise to cancel the noise, from the perspective of my ear drums.

I have a new pair of hiking boots too, that are by far the best pair of hiking boots I have EVER put on my feet. They are Kayland Vertigo High boots. Maybe if I get a chance to write a review while I am on my way I will. There don't seem to be too many reviews out on the web about them. But to summarize quickly... As I was told by the super friendly staff over at bent gate mountaineering, the boots are designed for an asymmetrical foot, which from my perspective means the following: The have a nice tight well supporting heel cup, and the toe box is nice and roomy for toe wiggling. The lacing system brings the laces all the way down to the tip of the shoe too, kind of like rock climbing shoes, so you are able to get them laced up for a perfect feeling fit. I've hiked in them for 3 weekends now, and have worn them to the office a few times to break them in. Never had a single blister. So hopefully the time spent in Chili will involve some exploring.

I hope to be updating this blog significantly more often during my trip as well, at least every other day, if not daily. We'll see how that goes, and how I'm feeling. I suppose network connectivity will dictate that as well. If the connectivity is bad, I'll probably at least compose entries locally, and update them as I can.

On that note, cheers! and I'll talk to you all from Chili. Perhaps from a web perspective, this should have been titled aufwietersprechen. (talk to you later?)