Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting to Antarctic Part 1

[Note to readers: Pictures will be added when we get back. Also, updates to the blog may be intermittent--Satellite Internet connection will be very “iffy” at the high southern latitudes]

Four days to get the the ship, 36 hours on the ship leaving the Beagle Channel and crossing the Drake package.

Saturday, Getting to Miami. We did plan on an extra day in Miami--just in case the plane from from Minneapolis was late or they lost our luggage. (And to just have a day on Miami Beach.)

Sunday, Getting to Santiago de Chile. Slept sleep in then wandered Miami Beach. Got to MIA at 4 PM for an 8:30 PM flight to Santiago. This is our red-eye flight of the trip. The flight confirmed on of my theories: Sleeping on a red-eye flight is a joke.
We get to Santiago, go to the hotel and crash.

Monday, Santiago de Chile. Got to the hotel at about 8 AM. Checked in. Got to our room and slept. 2:30 to 5:00--A very quick tour of Santiago. Only got out of bus twice--At the Presidential palace, and the Pre Columbian Museum.

Chile is having their national elections this December. Political signs everywhere!. Since Pinochet’s 17 year dictatorship, Chile is back to a democracy--with presidential terms limited to one four year term.

The Pre-Columbian museum has a great collection of native artifacts stretching over thousands of years from native civilizations stretching from Mexico to Chile. The only problem is that I really want to sleep more.

Back to the hotel, slept an hour, then the welcome dinner.

Met two researchers from Oceanites, a nonprofit research organization that specializes in counting penguins. The do a census of some of the penguin species at sample sites. They will have three researchers on board for this trip. According to them, any time we land where there are penguins, they will be running through penguin rookeries counting penguins.They will offer a briefing on their research sometime during the trip.

City Planning note: The main freeway through Santiago is mainly below the surface. In many places there is a linear park on top. In some places the river is on top. (not a big river but a VERY fast river.) What a great way to minimize the impact of a six-lane freeway.

Tuesday, to Tierra del Fuego and the ship. Wake-up at 5:00, quick breakfast, then to the airport for a charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. Tried again to sleep on the plane.

Bus ride through to outskirts of Ushuaia. Ushuaia’s population is about 50,000. Has some manufacturing but the largest employers are government (it is the capital of the provence) and tourism.

We Drive through Tera del Fuego national park and stop at the end of the road. Literally the end of the road. Argentina Highway 3 is the Trans=American Highway. So this is the end of a highway that starts in Alaska.

While Tierra del Fuego seems to have s climate similar to SE Alaska the Flora and Fauna are very different. No large mammals, the major species seems to be the Canadian Beaver--introduced as an attempt to start a fur industry around 1950. The industry didn’t work but the Beavers love it. No conifers. But a number of varieties of “False Birch” trees that are extremely slow growing.

We board a catamaran (motorized, not sail) for lunch and a ride through the Beagle Channel and back to Ushuaia to board our ship. The channel is named for the ship Charles Darwin was on. (The main reason for the catamaran trip was to give the ship crew time to clean the ship and get ready for us--the passengers from the previous trip just got off the ship thas morning.)

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