Back in May, I signed up to return to Antarctica with the hope of going to a research station south of Chile called Palmer that has never had a dentist. After patiently waiting a month with no word, I checked in with Jim, the medical director of the Antarctic program, and he glibly said “Oh yeah, you’ve been approved.” After a few months of juggling times and dates it was finally determined that I would be going in late November, and then continue on to McMurdo and the South Pole in January.
So I packed up to depart the day after Thanksgiving with a turkey leftover sandwich for lunch that afternoon. I had enough time on the layover in Dallas to enjoy some wonderful Texas bar-b-que with my brother, and it held me over for the 9 hour overnight flight to Santiago, Chile. One more flight south to Punta Arenas brought me close to the bottom of South America, and from there I met some fellow passengers on the ship that would take us further south. They call the journey a “cruise”, but with the prospect of high rolling, stormy waves it’s no picnic on the high seas. We were relatively lucky with the multi day crossing of the Drake Passage, and we arrived at Palmer station after a 2 day stop to unload cargo for a field camp that left 5 souls behind to enjoy the peace and quiet of a remote island in the Antarctic peninsula.
We also got to see some science along the way, like the deployment of some gliders that are really mini subs that collect data for a number of months while they scoot round under the ice. The food has been amazing and it’s easy to put ion a few pounds, so walking around on the deck is a good idea when the weather is nice.
Once we arrived at the station, the ship was secured sturdy enough to dampen the usual pitching and rolling, and since we are considered “turn around” passengers, we still sleep on board for the week we are at the pier. I spent a few hours setting up the dental equipment, and by the next day I was open for business with a waiting list of folks happy to get a free check-up and cleaning.