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Team Aspire sets out to Sea

11/26/2010, 3:13 PM by Lollie Garay
Map of Southern South America<br/><br/>Credit: Wikipedia: uploaded by en:User:Geo Swan on 14 March 2005.
Map of Southern South America
Photo Credit: Wikipedia: uploaded by en:User:Geo Swan on 14 March 2005.

Friday, Nov 26

The RV Nathaniel B Palmer left Punta Arenas Chile at 8PM, sailing north up through the Straits of Magellan. The straits are a 600 km (370miles) long channel at the southernmost tip of South America that gives access to the Atlantic. At its narrowest point it is 3km (1.9mi) and at its widest, 35km (22 mi). See the attached image of the map and find the narrow opening to the sea on the east! Special pilots are required to navigate vessels through this narrow opening.

Early on Saturday morning they will round Cape Horn and enter the full force of the Drake Passage, where they are forecast to meet rough seas. Tish reports that everything is secured and they’re “ready for a couple of days of being tossed around”.

The Drake Passage is named after 16th century English privateer Sir Frances Drake. This 1000km(600 m) wide stretch of ocean connects the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and marks the place where cool, sub polar conditions become the frozen Antarctic environment. Interestingly, there is no significant land anywhere on the Earth at this latitude. Because of that, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has an unimpeded flow driven by strong westerly winds that carries huge volumes of water through the pass and around Antarctica.

Transit across the Drake Passage is either tolerable or “rocking”. We’ll look forward to a report from the team on what it was like! On the upside, once crossed, the beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula awaits them ☺


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Question of the Day

  • What are Polynyas and why are they important to study?

    Polynyas, are recurring areas of seasonally open water surrounded by ice.

    Energy and material transfer between the atmosphere, polar surface ocean, and the deep sea in polynas provide polar ecosystems with just the right ingredients needed for high productivity and intense biogeochemical recycling.

    Polynyas may be the key to understanding the future of Polar Regions since their extent is expected to increase with anthropogenic warming.