18 February, 1998

Gould-en Greetings!

We are currently entering the Straits of Magellan. We will pick up the Chilean pilot who will guide the ship into the Punta Arenas, Chili, at about 05:30 AM. Thus will end my sea voyage to Antarctica and back. Travel by sea is so close to the elements surrounding the vessel. We travel, at most, at 12 knots (roughly the same as miles per hour -- multiply knots by 1.1 to get mph). It gives one time to see the animals that pass by, the seaweed that drifts by, and features of the land if the ship isn't too far offshore.

The clouds finally parted today and we were treated to a brilliant blue sky, sunshine, and 50 degrees F air temperature. The sea was a beautiful green, with the wake (the waves created behind the ship) a perfect seafoam wash. The air was crystalline pure. As much as I miss my family and students, it will be hard to go back to the brown haze of Houston. Unless one gets away from the effects of industrialization, it is harder to notice the pollution that becomes like backgound. We know it is there, but it just doesn't get our attention. Perhaps it should.

While standing on the bow, absorbing all the rays of sunshine (with eye protection and sunscreen, of course) I spotted penguins again. This time they were Magellanic penguins. These birds are slightly smaller than the Adelie penguins and have a black stripe in the shape of an upsidedown "U" on their ventral (belly) side. They were just floating on top until we got close to them. Then they dived and porpoised (jumping in and out of the water like a dolphin) away. How many different species of penguins have I now seen?

Warm regards,


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