12 April, 1999

Dear Friends:

I boarded the plane in a flurry. There was too much to finish to even sit down and think about what was

happening. I was numb when I collapsed into my seat on the 11:30 PM flight out of Miami. I happened to

be seated in front of John Prins, an engineering student from Oregon State University, who was to assist

with keeping the sensing equipment operational. We talked for a bit then drifted off to sleep.

I can’t get over it…Here I am, joining a team that is going to explore the unknown waters of the Bransfield

Straits…we flew through the night, morning’s sunrays backlighting the Andes from the air, exposing the

jagged profile which erupted from the conflict and compromise of the sea with the earth (hasn’t it always

been that way?).

We descended to Santiago, where we met Jimmy, our Chilean representative from Antarctic Support

Agency, who whisked us through potentially confusing lines, papers, and delays. After a brief layover in

Santiago, we again boarded a plane and flew through Puerta Montt and then finally on to Punta Arenas, the

last large city on the Straits of Magellan, just before the end of the earth. For some of the team, this was

the end of over 30 hours of flying, having assembled from various corners of the earth: a geochemist from

Paris, a biologist from New Zealand, the chief scientist and his engineers and colleagues from Oregon, and

a European group from both France and Germany. Together they will use cameras, dredges, temperature,

elemental analyses, and experience to locate the hydrothermal vents that everyone hopes to find.

Punta Arenas from the top deck of the Research Vessel/Ice Breaker Nathaniel B. Palmer, looking west-southwest.

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