The One Where I Strangle a Chicken and Snuggle a Penguin

Hello again everyone!

It’s been two weeks since my last update and I feel like time has flown by – I almost forgot I had to write another one of these, since it feels like just yesterday I was doing the last one! I’ve been having a lot of fun celebrating people’s birthdays, having asado cookouts with my host family, and getting to know Ushuaia better. I’ve really got to start watching my sugar intake, because they have these things called alfajores which are SO GOOD, and hey, you only live once 😉

Oh and did I mention that I went horseback riding?? Because that was amazing.

The most challenging thing from these past weeks is not necessarily what you all would expect. The challenge is chickens. And there is no solution to the problem. There are ten chickens that live outside my window who like to scream (yes, scream) at 4 am every day. Not to mention their friend the rooster who wants everyone to know that the sun is rising earlier as we get closer to the austral summer (the sunrises and sunsets are lovely; the chickens are not). It is taking some time to get used to, but I am so grateful to be here that I know this will just be a funny side note in the long run. 

There has been a lot of work lately, and luckily we’re now only a day away from being finished with the school portion of this program. The spacing of the program has overloaded the last couple of weeks with major projects that are really labor intensive which has been rough. But I had my final big group research presentation and scientific essay due yesterday, my podcast final today, and I have my Spanish final exam tomorrow. So that means no more lectures, no more tests! I will miss seeing all of my program people every day (since we are all going off to do our own research or internships now) but I am happy to be done with this part.  

What is starting soon is the ISP (Independent Study Project) portion of the program. I’ve been developing my research proposal, and have decided to study the survival rates and philopatry of Magellan penguins on Martillo Island in the Beagle Channel. It’s super exciting and I can’t wait to work with my wonderful advisor on this massive project. My program was able to visit the island this past week, so I did get a sneak peek at the animals and area that I will be studying (see pictures below!), and I am so stoked. I was always excited for this project, but now I am especially hyped to go on field research expeditions to the island and to learn about their distance sampling research and microchipping methods.

And finally, the day we’ve all been waiting for… ANTARCTICA IS HAPPENING ON THURSDAY! I am probably going to cry from the sheer amazingness of the experience. We will be on the M/V USHUAIA, which, fun fact, used to be a research vessel that was owned by NOAA. It has been re-outfitted for tourists, but what this means is that, unlike a cruise ship, it moves with the ocean. So while this means that it is the safest vessel we could possibly be on, it also means that while crossing the Drake Passage, which is notoriously volatile, we are going to be rocking like there’s no tomorrow. So seasickness is practically guaranteed. But that’s ok – I am a turbulence on airplanes kind of girl, so I think it’ll be fun. 

The best part though (apart from penguins and seals and glaciers and general awesomeness)? They also told us that we might be able to do a polar plunge in the Southern Ocean, which you’d best believe I am absolutely doing. Did I bring a bathing suit for this express reason? Yes, yes I did. Again, you only live once, and since you can’t take anything from the continent (no rocks, water, plants, feathers, nothing), I’ve got to make the most memories possible. 

So wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side. 

Until next time 🙂