Punta Arenas was beautifully eerie. Once an incredibly busy and flourishing port, Punta Arenas lost a fair amount of business and traffic when the Panama Canal was built. Before, the port was used as a coaling station for steamships headed between the Pacific and Atlantic. It being winter and our one full day in the city being a Sunday also contributed to the silence felt around the port- most businesses and merchants were closed and few people were seen walking the slushy streets. It felt like a ghost town the majority of those encountered being wild dogs. At one point all the dogs were found sleeping and the streets were further silent. We passed seven dogs passed out either together or alone on benches or near buildings as if all canines practice siesta in Punta Arenas.
This was the view from my hotel room Sunday morning. After a night of drinking with the team and a stroll home late through a snowstorm, this sight and the fresh air accompanying it was certainly a great way to begin our last day on land. The language barrier has only been a minor problem- although trying to order drinks on the plane was sort of an embarrassment. Everyone has been incredibly accommodating and helpful and friendly. I spoke (in spanish of course) to one of the merchants in the small park we passed between the dock and the hotel about a statue he was selling of a prehistoric animal.
Our last night in port, Austin and I went out for dinner and drinks with the Co-PIs (Principle Investigators) for our project, Deneb and Joe. As we sat in this blue lighted sky bar atop a casino hotel overlooking Punta Arenas sipping fancy drinks we all couldn’t pronounce, the stories both had to share about past trips to Antarctica were unbelievable. Whale and leopard seal encounters, ice crumbling beneath their feet as they ran top speed to a helicopter that airlifted them and their students to safety to name just a few. Everyone here continues to impress me with their stories, hobbies, talents, and charisma.