Date: Saturday, March 12th 2005
Time: 02:00 am
Location: Puerto Williams
Temperature: 11°C 52°F
Wind speed: 16 mph 13.9 knots
Wind chill: 8°C 47°F
Weather: Intermittent Sun and Rain
Yesterday we traveled back to Puerto Williams, the weather was pretty miserable; cold and wet for the entire journey. Despite the weather, the trip back was lovely; plenty to see and talk about along the way. We arrived at Puerto Williams around 19:00 and immediately set off to the local shops for some essential supplies. Mike and Scott managed to book tickets on the early morning flight to Punta Arenas and had to set about packing all their gear. Klara and Martin prepared a delicious curry for dinner, after eating we watched some of the spectacular footage that Mike and Scott had collected over the previous days. We are hoping that we get a day or two of Sun soon so that we can dry out all our wet gear.
This morning, we held a meeting after breakfast to decide what our next course of action should be. We decided that we had accomplished all that we could from the boat and that the rest of the trip would have to be conducted without Ocean Tramp. Our ideal sites would require more time to access than we presently have and the access would be better by helicopter. Ocean Tramp had provided us with a superb view of the coastal section of many glaciers, but our future work would definitely be best conducted by helicopter travel. There are many promising sites that most probably contain fantastic records for comparing to the Antarctic and we will definitely be returning in the near future. All in all, it was a very successful reconnaissance season. Our plan now is to return to Punta Arenas and ship the majority of our gear back to the United States. We will keep our tents, backpacks, and some light hiking gear in the hope of exploring part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field for future ice coring sites.
After saying goodbye to Mike and Scott, the rest of the day was spent preparing for the trip back to Punta Arenas. Weather wise, we were somewhat lucky; the weather was intermittently sunny all day. However, mixed in with the periods of brief sun was plenty of rain. This made the task of drying out our stuff quite difficult. We spread all our gear out on the boat dock in order to catch as many of the sun’s rays as possible and we used several space blankets to cover everything up during the frequent rain showers. When the rain stopped we quickly peeled the space blankets back to expose all our gear to the sun. After several hours of messing around in this manner we finally had all our gear re-packed (only slightly drier than before) and ready to go. Paul spent most the day arranging transport back to Punta Arenas for our gear and us. The ferry did not have any room for passengers, but it did have room for our gear. The only problem was that it was not docking until midnight. Luckily, Paul managed to secure the last four seats on tomorrow’s Twin Otter flight to Punta Arenas, so we all have to move extra fast to get ready. We all dropped off some of our dirty clothes at the local lavanderia (laundry), this time the mother was home and running things. We also checked our email at the local town offices and did one last bit of shopping in the local tourist shops.
At 22:30 we filled Charlie’s truck with our first load of gear and headed over to the ferry-docking ramp. The ferry ramp was completely deserted so we unloaded our gear into a neat pile halfway down the ramp in the hope that we could be the first in line. I waited with the first load of gear as the truck drove back to the boat for another load. The wind was picking up so I arranged the gear into a makeshift wall for some protection. It was a beautifully clear night and there were countless stars twinkling and shining overhead. The surroundings were so quiet that I felt completely alone, as if I were in a ghost town. The only audible sounds were those of the wind and water. I could see the lights of Ushuaia radiating brightly from across the channel and I almost drifted off to sleep, it had been a long day. Twenty minutes later I was startled by the sound of Charlie’s truck returning with the second load of gear. By now it was 23:30 and we could see the lights of the ferry coming down the channel in the distance, it was going to be on time! By 23:45 the word must have gone around town because there were suddenly crowds of people surrounding the ramp in cars, trucks, bikes, tractors, you name it. Even though we were halfway down the ramp (near the water’s edge), there were still people driving their cars in front of us and pushing ahead of the queue. It was total chaos, a stark contrast to the serene scene I had experienced just an hour before. Once the ferry had docked safely we set about transferring our gear into the shipping container on board. By loading the truck fully and carrying two bags each, we were able to load up our stuff in one go.
After a final count of our bags and boxes we left the bustling scene of the ferry behind and headed back to Ocean Tramp. Along the way we stopped off to explore the yacht club bar. The bar is housed in the upper deck and bridge of a sunken old military supply ship, the Micalvi, which also doubles as the yacht club jetty. The Micalvi is a popular stopover for sailors who visit Antarctica across the Drake Passage. Being only 100km north of Cape Horn and also providing hot showers and a mean pisco sour, I can see why.