Blog #2: Esperar (To Wait, Hope, Expect)

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© B. Shaw
First Day

It’s my last day in Punta Arenas, and something is wrong with my bankcard. I received notification from my bank of unusual activity, but I thought it was just the fact that I was out of the country, since I neglected to let my bank know I’d be traveling (one of those last-minute things that just slips away undone).

Just before checking out of the hotel, I managed to get online, only to discover more than 20 odd transactions. My card has been compromised and the bank has canceled it. I’m grateful to discover this before leaving on the boat—who knows what damage could have been done during my month-long absence! But it’s still stressful, because now I have no direct access to the project money that was wired into my account, which I’m supposed to use to purchase food and local supplies for many of the participants. I know things will work out; somehow, they always do.

We’ve now arrived a little early at the boat, the Don Jose Miguel (see Photo #1 below), which is docked in the city port. We’re all eager to start off, but it’s clear we’ve interrupted the crew’s lunch. Most of the crew are familiar faces, returning for the second or third year of this project, but there are two new faces—young men who are eager to help, even though I have the feeling that we’ve just intruded on their last bit of solitude before the voyage. The next several hours are a bustle of loading our gear, personal provisions, food, and other supplies for the crew, followed by hours of just waiting.

I’m initially told we’ll be leaving around 4:00 p.m., and so I take my Dramamine around 3:00—only to realize later that we won’t be leaving until 8:00! The pills take effect and I sleep, napping in my bunk, where I’m later woken by the motor starting up as we pull out of port. We've got good weather for our trip, and dolphins finally arrive to escort us on our way around 10:30 p.m. (although it’s still daylight outside). To see the dolphins in action, and experience what it's like to travel by boat through the Beagle Channel, check out my "Video Journal #3: Heading out to Sea."

The Next Day….

The seas were horrible in the middle of the night, and again around 8:00 a.m. In the early-morning hours, I was feeling queasier than I ever had the year before and was worried I might be sick. Fortunately, I managed to ward off the sickness with sheer will power and mind control, and somehow I got a fair amount of sleep.

It’s now 2:45 p.m. on January 11th, and we’re nearing our first collecting site. I’m excited to be out in the field, but I’m also feeling rather unprepared and overwhelmed. I’ve been charged with the task of finding and collecting a specific set of species with the sole purpose of making microscopic photos of their cells while they’re still alive. With this in mind, I take another last-minute look over the prioritized list and try to make a plan of where I might like to collect…. Hope all goes well!

Later that Evening….

The first day of collecting was a total success! Although it was wet and a little cold (I was pretty uncomfortable the whole time), I found a very specific plant that, until now, has always been collected accidentally. It’s a very small species, and one that we think might be new to science. In fact, for the past month or so I've been working on writing the description that will be used for its official recognition by the scientific community. But today the habitat was right, and after looking closely, I found it! If my luck can continue like this through the whole trip, I’ll be golden!

More soon,


© N. Klazenga
Punta Arenas Dock