Santiago Stopover, Falkland Islands Bound

28 December 2012

11:40 p.m. Chile time (U.S. EST plus 2 hours)

Long flights from everywhere converged on Santiago, Chile in the wee hours of this morning. Almost all the staff and passengers on our voyage are now settling in for a few hours sleep in Santiago hotels before our early morning flight to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, via Punta Arenas, Chile, on the Strait of Magellan. We expect to depart on the ‘Akademic Ioffe’ around supper time tomorrow.

Aerial_photo_Port_Stanley

Aerial photograph of Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
Image is licensed under the Creative Commons

Despite jet lag and little or no sleep, many folks explored the mountains and seashore near Santaigo today. There were two Cheesemans’ bus tours and some people set off independently, or rested. It was surprisingly hot, especially for us coming from midwinter in the Northern Hemisphere. Not everyone packed for mid-90s Fahrenheit! I was glad I had sunscreen and a large water bottle while out. Soon enough we’ll be glad for all our polar layers.

Everyone seems especially excited this year to head into the cold and wild. The vibe among the group is of high anticipation, eager curiosity, childlike excitement, and perhaps a few butterflies. It’s easy to meet other tour members because we stand out in crowds with our outdoorsy outfits, hiking boots, and drybag backpacks. The green Cheesemans’ luggage tags cinch the ID. Many introductions have been made in airplane aisles, customs lines, and hotel lobby.

One of the first questions is usually, “Have you been to Antarctica before?” I’m one of the newer Cheesemans’ staff members and this is my second trip on staff to the Scotia Arc. I’ve worked on other tours by sea around Cape Horn, the Falklands, and Patagonia. The Southern Ocean and its wildlife work a spell on people. Most participants this year are first-timers. It’s fun to think that by the end of the journey some of them may be just as deeply enchanted with the Antarctic as are the most experienced of our staff.

- Kate Spencer, Staff Naturalist; Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris