2 October, 1995

Monday, October 2, 1995

Hi, everyone - I have been here in Punta Arenas, Chile since Sept. 28 after an eighteen hour plane trip waiting for the ship Polar Duke to arrive, off load, onload, refuel, and set sail for the Antarctic. I have had a chance to roam this southern most city of 120,000 friendly people in the world and find that music and smiles can be a universal way of communication. The weather has been overcast and about 45-48 degrees but I should not complain about the chill in the air or should I? We have received word that we will leave tomorrow, the third of October for Antarctica at about 1600hrs. It is about an eight-hour trip out the Straits of Magellan and then a 3-5 day crossing of the Drake Passage. There is a team of 8 researchers on board and myself. I am told that I will be involved in the computing aspect of the trip (not all of it surely) but some of it and I am scheduled for a meeting with the engineering people from the ship tomorrow at 0800 to discuss downloading ice edge limits, ozone data and weather data.

The last two days have been spent loading and unpacking materials to be used on the trip and equipment needed to be built also from supplies that have met us here. There is a crew of about fourteen Norwegians that run the Polar Duke, a research vessel with Bergen on the stern. She is 215 feet long and I am impressed with the size and the way the ship is laid out. There are two laboratory stations as well as a computer and electronics lab on board and I will send more info later regarding data involved in these labs. We will encounter ice pack around 59 degrees south and some of the ships' crew has said that it is a heavy ice year. We will stop to drop off scientists and supplies for a day at a penguin research station (Station Copa) and I have already volunteered to be among the supply team to take Skidoos on the pack ice with the supplies to the station. It is one of the few places where three species of penguins live together in the world..if the ice is too thick, we may have to go to the Polish research station and unload there, however that remains to be seen...then we will go to Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula for more re-supplying - it is really an adventure and I am really excited.

I also realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to take part in this adventure - it is a once in a lifetime experience and I am really getting involved in it. I also am getting numerous ideas as to how to apply materials, data, and information in the classrooms in a variety of subjects..it will take time, but the ideas are flowing. I also realize how lucky I am to live in the United States. We have a great deal of freedom and at times take it for granted. We also have enough toilet paper without having to pay for it when you need to use el bano while out in the city - you can see that it doesn't take long for the important things in life to have real meaning..it has been a hard winter here in Punta Arenas and the streets are torn up as well as the roads leading in and out of town.. the leaves have not popped on the trees so it looks a lot like January back in Gig Harbor - however, painting of buildings and houses is taking place and I am sure it will be brighter in a few weeks - the city does not wake up much before 0900hrs and then it is usually really busy. At about 1300hrs the city shuts down, the buildings close and everyone takes at least a 90 minute lunch and then the city wakes up again. It is still going strong at 2000hrs with the streets packed with people eating, coming from work and school - the city seems to be the hub of people's social life. Of course, this is only an outsiders opinion but it surely seems that way. Sunday is a day of rest and no shopping or drinking at least in bars and restaurants - prices are about the same as in parts of the United States and are not too different. Starbucks is not present here and you can order coffee espresso specifically but not all places have espresso machines so the only coffee everywhere even in the store is instant Nescafe - this really takes some getting used to. I order double espresso's and put it in insulated coke containers - people want me to put sugar in it and then when I tell them no, they make faces at me and wonder how in can drink it and call me Americano. Let me assure you that it is quite easy.

I really need to get off the mail system now and will continue to write for those interested in the progress of this trip. I will try to send data back regarding Lat and Long positions some can keep track of the ships position on a map especially at the elementary levels if you would like..I don't know when the next transmission will be but I promise to keep in touch. Thanks to all of you for your support and best wishes. I really appreciate it. 'Til later.


George Palo.

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