25 March, 1999
March 25, 1999
Hello from Punta Arenas! We officially docked at Punta Arenas at about 6:30 this morning . . . which was quite a bit earlier than we expected. We made great time coming through the Strait of Magellan, and we had a favorable current that increased our speed. After we docked, the customs officials came aboard the ship to check all of our passports and the cargo that we are carrying. By about 10:00 a.m., we were free to leave the ship and explore around the town.
Punta Arenas is the most southerly city in Chile. It has a population of about 110,000, and it lies about halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the north side of the Strait of Magellan. Punta Arenas is a center for the local sheep farming and fishing industries. We saw lots of fishing boats, but we're too close to the center of town to see any of the sheep. Spanish is the official language of Chile. Although I don't speak Spanish, I had a very successful day of exchanging money, going to the telephone store (you don't make phone calls from a phone booth, you have to go to a phone store), ordering lunch at a restaurant, and going to the grocery store. Tomorrow, several of us are hoping to sign up for a tour to go see the local penguins.
So, what species of penguins can be found in southern Chile? Magellanic penguins! Magellanic penguins are one of four species of penguins that belong to the Spheniscus (or wedge-shaped) genus. These four species of ringed, or harlequin, penguins live mainly in cool temperate to tropical climate zones in South America and Africa. The African Black-footed, or Jackass, penguin lives around the southern tip of Africa. The Peruvian penguin, also known as the Humboldt penguin, lives on the coast of Peru. The Galapagos penguin is the smallest and most unusual of this group, and it breeds exclusively on the Galapagos Islands, which are a national park of Ecuador that is located on the equator. All of these penguins have dark gray rings or bands that loop over their white chests and down their flanks. The Magellanic and Galapagos penguins have two dark bands, while the Black-footed and Peruvian penguins only have one.
Magellanic penguins are the largest of the four ringed penguins and they are also the most numerous. They are about 27 inches in length, and their average weight is about 7.7 pounds. Bare skin can be seen around their eyes, and this helps in the dispersal of heat when the bird leaves the cold water to rest on the relatively warm shore. Magellanic penguin colonies are underground, and the penguins dig burrows in which they lay their eggs. Magellanic penguins are partial to eating sardines, but they also eat other small fish, along with squid and cuttlefish.
Before we finish this expedition, there are two more scientists that I want to introduce. I wanted to take some time in today's journal to introduce you to our Chief Scientist and Principle Investigator, Dr. John Anderson. He is 54 years old, and he is from Saraland, Alabama. He and his wife, Doris, now live in Houston, Texas, and work at Rice University. Doris is the Assistant to the Dean of Architecture, and John is a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. They have two children -- a 25 year old daughter and a 32 year old son. As John was growing up, his father (who loved to fish and was a professional fisherman at one time) instilled in him a love for the sea. His mother was an elementary school teacher and she instilled in him a love for knowledge. He first became interested in science in high school, and he parcticularly enjoyed oceanography and marine biology. John graduated from the University of South Alabama with a degree in Geology in 1968. At that time, he was one of the first two geology majors to graduate from the school. He went to graduate school at the University of New Mexico. During his second year there, he was asked by one of the professors if he wanted to go to Antarctica -- so his first trip to Antarctica was in 1970. He followed that same professor to Florida State where John completed his Ph.D. in Geology. After graduation, he taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, for three years. In 1975 he was hired to teach at Rice University, and he has been there ever since! It wasn't until 1978 that John was able to return to Antarctica. This trip makes his 20th trip to the southernmost continent! John has seen lots of changes in Antarctic research since his earlier years. At first, there was lots of exploratory work and the emphasis was on the United States presence in Antarctica. Now, the emphasis is on conducting research and science in Antarctica . . . and the Nathaniel B. Palmer is the premier vessel in for such research. The capabilities of this ship, along with the advances in technology and equipment, make the research much more productive than it ever has been in the past. John is very excited about the data that has been gathered this cruise, and he is looking forward to returning and conducting more Antarctic research in the future. For relaxation, John and his wife enjoy fishing and walking on the beach at their weekend retreat on Galveston Island.
Tomorrow, I'll introduce our last scientist. Do you know who that is? I'll also write about our adventures in Punta Arenas. On Friday, we'll be leaving for the United States. I'll write the last journal entry from home, and it will be posted sometime on Sunday. I hope that you're enjoying this expedition as much as I am! Until tomorrow . . .
Latitude: 53 degrees 10 minutes South
Longitude: 70 degrees 54 minutes West
(All of our other instruments are turned off while we are in port)
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