Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away by Mel Leng (from aboard the Polarstern)

Mel's route so far (final destination
next week - South Georgia(F))
Melanie is en-route to the Island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean, she sent this post Saturday night (our time) to paint a picture of the lengths (and detours) she'll undertake for science!.....

In my leaving blog I mentioned what a huge journey it was going to be to undertake fieldwork on  South Georgia in the Southern Ocean…that statement was made assuming that flights went to plan, connections were made and bags arrived. As it happened my trip from the UK (A) to Chile via Frankfurt (B) unraveled as early as Europe. The flight to Chile from Frankfurt was cancelled leaving about 50 scientists from all over the world stranded with a deadline to meet the ship in 2 days. The airline then sent scientists all over South America. Fortunately for me Hogg Robinson Group (our travel agent) were brilliant, I called their 24 hours emergency line and they were able to rebook connections, find out where my bags were, and by the time I arrived in Sao Paulo (C) I had a text message with my new flight connections. 

Amazingly despite the extra stop over in Brazil I appeared to travel while time stood still. Twenty four hours after setting out I arrived in Punta Arenas (E) via Santiago (D)  to plan where I met the German Research Foundation vessel the Polarstern.

The flight from Santiago in Chile to Punta Arenas was amazing, with the Andes to the east covered with snow and topped by cotton wool like blobs of clouds. To the west were the deeply incised coastline boarding the Pacific Ocean. Gale force westerly winds constantly batter Punta Arenas causing the Pacific to appear to be topped by white foam. The onshore winds are so fierce that there are few trees, and those that manage to grow strain against the wind at acute angles. The landscape is rocky and barren littered with the sprawling metropolis of Punta Arenas, oil refineries and army barracks.

German polar research vessel POLARSTERN in Atka Bay,
Antarctica during supply of Neumayer-Station
Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute
Commerson's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) in the
Strait of Magellan. (c)
Mirko Thiessen

I am now traveling on the Polarstern from southern Chile to South Georgia (F), we have just passed the Falkland Islands and the Scotia Sea has amazingly been rather quiet (with only a 2-3m swell), although approaching weather systems are catching us up from the NW. The ship’s doctor is issuing sea sickness tablets…Tomorrow we will be in 4000m deep open water and other scientists’ on board will start to scan the ocean floor looking for signs of the massive fractures that occur in this region. 

My South Georgia team are now building rafts and preparing for our land based expedition. We expect to be dropped off on the Island early next week......and by the way I saw a pod of Commerson´s dolphins today! Blog again soon, Mel Leng.

[See Mel's previous blog to find out more on the South Georgia mission, and follow her on twitter @MelJLeng.  Also, to see exactly where the POLARSTERN is right now follow this link to a live map!!]