Come Hell or High Water

Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of what’s happening in Texas right now.

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Howdy readers!

I’m going to take a break from the re-telling of my Antarctic adventures to talk about a current topic that is near and dear to my heart. I just want to shed some light on the current events that are unfolding in Texas because apparently the news media and the rest of the country aren’t really sure what’s happening down here. Y’all we are devastated down here. I’m afraid words in my blog post can’t even translate my feelings.

But nonetheless here we go….a tale of Harvey and how he needs to get the hell outta Texas. We’re going to break this thing down: The good, the bad, and the ugly. But we’ll give all the bad and ugly first because I’d like to end this thing on a good note.

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THE BAD

Harvey began as a teeny-tiny tropical wave off the coast of Africa. No one was really worried, either these things fizzle out or they head up the eastern seaboard. It headed towards Yucatan where it hit as a weak tropical storm and crossed into the Gulf of Mexico where it turned from tropical depression to tropical storm (for all my friends who don’t experience hurricanes – their power comes from sucking up moist, warm air over the ocean, land weakens them). We knew at that point it was most likely headed for Texas.

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Coastal Texans are tough people. I’m a dirty coastal person…I have been my whole life and have invested my life long career into being a protector of this coast. We are prepared for tropical storms at the drop of a hat. And that is what the meteorologists told us to plan for so we did…

For most of us that includes a strip to the liquor store (whiskey, beer, and margs!):

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The grocery store for sure, case of water, some bread, Chef Boyardee, more beer perhaps?

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This was my own personal prep for TS Bill two years ago (don’t worry I had food and water besides this!)

Also don’t forget that ice for margs, go quick before all the Houston Texans coolers sell out – otherwise the store is simply out of coolers:

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Ain’t nobody want that mess in their house!

For many of us it’s that last chance to get your fill of Whataburger, TexMex, or even a big bowl of gumbo:

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The Gumbo Diner in Galveston, TX

As the queen of memes in this blog….let’s not forget about the DANKEST hurricane edition memes….here’s a few featured ones I pulled for this blog:

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For days we were told to expect a tropical storm to make landfall in Corpus Christi. They took all the precautions of warning citizens. People began stocking up, making plans, doing normal things that any coastal Texan would have.

However, Harvey slowly became a category one storm.

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Just so you can get an idea of the wind associated with “Cat”egories…

A category one storm is nothing a tried and true coastal Texan couldn’t handle, that just means buy more beer and some candles ’cause the lights are going to go out.

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It didn’t stop there. Within hours Harvey began stalling over the Gulf sucking up more and more warm, moist air and frankly just got even uglier. Before the Texas Coast knew it – he became a category 3 storm OVERNIGHT. But that wasn’t the worst….within hours of landfall he mowed right over an extremely warm water eddy and became a category 4.

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Our friends in South Texas did what they could. They began boarding windows, collecting their things, and getting the hell outta Dodge. Most people leave for a 3….everyone leaves for a 4 or 5. They did everything they could.

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Satellite image from NASA – look how fat and ugly Harvey was.

I want everyone to take a minute and put yourselves in their shoes….if you had a single duffle bag to load your most prized possessions and things you needed to survive on what would you take? At that moment in time you have to prepare for the worst…you never know if you’re going to come back to a standing house. As someone who has had to do this…it rips your heart into a million pieces and it’s harder than you think. The family photos hanging on the wall, great grandma’s dining room table, your child’s crayon art on the fridge…it gets left behind. Just let that sink in.

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If y’all are anything like me – this is how packing goes. I’m a serial over packer.

Harvey made landfall as a strong category 4 storm. Like a coward he came under cover of darkness. You don’t know terror until you can’t see the thing attacking everything you love and hold dear around you. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing as the only storm to that degree I have ever weathered was Hurricane Ike back in 2008 – much weaker than Harvey.

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I sat and watched in terror all night long as this thing made landfall. My heart ached and I grieved. No one would see the full extent of the damage until morning came. I spent my entire summer working out of Port Aransas and Corpus Christi…for the short time I spent there it holds a dear place in my heart along with Rockport and Port O’Connor…

I cried as I knew that despite being tough coastal people – that these towns with such little warning were in big trouble. I thought back to the small business owners, boat owners, and people that had lived in generational houses. How was it even fair for me to watch from the comfort of my apartment as they endured the night.

I woke up in tears…seeing the place where I spent a lot of my this summer nearly leveled. There were no words. These are just a few pictures of the devastation in Port Aransas and Rockport….

There are more aerial images showing just the extent of damage online.

Harvey continued to make his trek inward like a tortoise through molasses he began hovering over Victoria where he dumped inches and inches of rain. The devastation in Victoria was just the beginning of the flooding.

At this point – I want you guys to think back to how fat and ugly Harvey was…his devastation did not stop with our friends in South Texas, he began kicking up moisture off the coast and band after band of heavy rain, lightning, and tornadoes because hitting the greater Houston area and the coastal plains in between Rockport and Freeport.

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See each one of those fragments to the right hand side of the main storm? That’s what refer to as the “dirty side”. This is the side containing heavy rain and tornadoes.

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While it doesn’t have the same wind that the main storm has – we were getting gusts of up to 100 mph.

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Each one of these bands began hitting the greater Houston area in waves. The first night – there was no space between these waves and that’s when the flooding began.

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Readers – I have lived on this coastline my entire 24 year life. I have never been so scared by a storm in my life…even Ike. These bands dumped rain like I had never seen. Five to six inches per hour. From midnight until nearly 7 am it poured in League City. Every 15 minutes the emergency alert system warned me of flash flooding and tornadoes. I gathered Orange Julius (for those who don’t know him, that’s my demon spawn cat) and we sat in the closet as wind shook our whole apartment. During that time I knew that I could only begin to feel a fraction of what folks in South Texas could feel.

I want you to know that I woke up that morning, and it felt very much like a scene from some apocalyptic movie. Residents slowly creeped out as light broke to assess the damage. What I woke up to shocked me.

Our road had become a river. 4-5 feet deep. Cars trapped. People sitting on the median. By the grace of some higher power….my apartment complex had been spared. After walking around for a bit and clearing some storm drains to ensure our complex continued to drain – I fired up the computer to see how everyone else fared.

These are just a few images of Houston, TX

Tears. Dickinson had flooded. Babies and elderly being rescued from rooftops after being stranded, people getting stuck on the road ways. Downtown Houston was underwater. Areas that historically had never flooded – submerged. We had surpassed 500 year totals….experts have even began referring to this as a 800 year storm.

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We have literally received a year’s worth of rain in less than a week.

Suburbs of Houston were flooded, east Texas, south of Houston, even our friends in Louisiana felt Harvey’s wrath. And this was day two. As I type we begin day 3 and it is STILL raining.

These are images from Dickinson, TX

As rain continues to fall and Houston’s many bayous come out of their banks, reservoirs flood, lakes begin pounding at the walls of dams, water has to be leaked into our cities.

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This is a map layer just showing Houston’s extensive bayou and creek systems.

There is no escape. More homes continued to flood – thousands of outsiders flocked to our cities to aid those who were trapped….and for most of us we watched in horror. The anger I feel of being stuck in my apartment watching my neighbors be rescued…being “safe” when I watch so many others around me suffering – it is simply not fair.

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This is I-10 in Winnie. This is a roadway….not the bay.

Just to put things into perspective – this storm is NOT moving. It is sandwiched by a nice high pressure keeping it over the Gulf just gobbling up warm, moist air like a fat kid eating a chocolate cake. It is headed back for the Gulf where it is expected to make a third landfall.

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My little hometown of Dayton, TX alone is breaking records at receiving over 40 inches of rain. The National Weather Service has had to start adding colors to their traditional maps just to keep up with the amount of rain we are receiving.

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Most of this post will relate to Houston – because that is where I am from but guys…do NOT forget that South Texas was hit harder than we were….I want to share this post with you as well to give you an idea of the extent of damage:

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Things are very, very bad here folks. Which brings us to our next section – the UGLY.

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THE UGLY

The first thing I want to discuss are all the crazy ass hazards that exist in flood situations. Like alligators, chemical spills at huge refineries that become damaged, huge floating mats of fire ants, giant snakes slithering up walls and fences….as if this situation wasn’t nightmarish enough let’s add all this to the mix!

Oh and not to mention all of the lovely looters who deserve to shot right between the eyes…come on guys it is TEXAS – I have not heard a single good outcome of the lootings.

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SPOILER ALERT – Y’all are getting shot. This is TEXAS. You knock down my door and you’re gonna get rambo dual wielding AR-15’s… mmmkay?

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These guys giving new meaning to the neighborhood watch. Can we get these gentlemen some sleeveless matching shirts!

Also please pray for us as most Whataburgers are currently closed. Is it now appropriate to pronounce it “Water-burger”?

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So here comes the ugliest part – if you get your panties up in a twist easily I advise you skip this section I am going to get about as colorful as a 64 pack of crayons (with the sharpener).

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I am about to get very emotional and throw some solid logic at your feet (come on guys this is a brutally honest blog…you already got to read about me peeing my pants so did you expect any less??).

Let me just share what a small subsection of the rest of the world has to say about this….

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Taking a deep breath and cracking my fingers real quick.

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WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!? I hope you never need rescuing. I hope you never have to feel the pain and anguish that we feel in Texas. You get to sit behind your safe little computer screen and make all sorts of opinions about us don’t you? If I could reach through the screen and slap the shit out of you I would. People are DYING. LOSING EVERYTHING THEY OWN. I hope you feel this pain for the crappy things you have to say.

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Let’s talk a little bit about evacuation….since my friend at the top (this is someone I personally encountered) thinks she’s knows everything about our situation. Since CNN thinks they know.

How many of y’all lived through hurricane Rita in 2005? Did you watch it on the news? Were you actually one of us who spent HOURS evacuating?

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Mass evacuations in Rita. We were given a couple days to evacuate millions within the Houston area.

It took my family 17 hours to make a normal 2 hour trip. Taking back roads. People DIED evacuating…HUNDREDS died. Even worse? Thousands became trapped on the road in their cars as the storm made landfall. I am scared to death weathering this storm in my apartment do you know how bad that would feel in a small car?

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Let’s also talk about how BIG Houston is. We’re talking a population of over 6 million. and that is Houston itself. I’m not including all the surrounding area (Katy, Rosenberg, Pearland, Webster, people in between on the coast, Baytown, my little hometown in Dayton…you get the point. Here’s a post that sums up what I’m trying to say pretty well:

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Just to put this in context – this was written on a Monday when she discusses rainfall since Saturday. I’m publishing this on a Wednesday. It is still raining.

OVER 6 MILLION PEOPLE. We only have a handful of roads going North could you imagine this flood with thousands of us being trapped in our cars? The mayor of Houston absolutely made the right call by not evacuating the city. He saved lives that could have been stranded and lost. The last I heard the death toll was in the teens. Sitting here calling our citizens ignorant for doing as authorities told them is like a slap in the face after they have lost everything and I’d like to physically slap you in the face girl at the top for sitting here and insulting all of the victims of this storm.

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Just sharing some more numbers with you.

Girl at the top wanted to argue with me about how she went through Sandy, etc. I just want to you to realize what a drop in the bucket these other disasters were compared to Harvey (not that they were any less devastating to the victims…but I just want you to get an idea of scale before you apply conditions to us):

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Bottom line is – if you don’t know what’s going on here and haven’t ever had to participate in a mass evacuation of the Houston area…please kindly shut up. You do not get to form an ignorant opinion on this nightmare.

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Here comes the next one…race and politics. Houston is not the rest of this country right now. I have seen whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, people of all colors of the rainbow helping each other out. We are all Texans and while the rest of the world may be divided I have never seen such a sense of community here.

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Can I just say how much I love this photo? Let’s give this guy a statue.

I don’t care what entity you believe in, what color your skin is, who you voted for, ANY of it. Disasters DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS, so why should I? If you need my help I am going to be there…bottom line. I am so happy to see everyone helping their fellow man and sharing my view.

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So you twats or tweeters or whatever you’re called…I think I liked the first one best…you can shove some thumbtacks under your toenails and kick the wall.

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Get it….tacky?

Also do you people realize how much this state does for you? You’re going to.

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Texas owns 1/3 of the nation’s oil refineries, guess where most of them are located? Corpus Christi, Houston, and its surrounding areas. I’m sure our twitter friends will be the first ones complaining about the hike in gas prices. I’ll sum it up quickly with a short quote taken from a friend of mine:

You are going to feel this. Gas prices are going to skyrocket. Oil refined products, everything from PVC pipe to dry cleaning fluid, will rise in price. The stock market will take a hit. New Orleans is a fantastic city, but it’s not a major economic force. Houston is the center of the nation’s energy industry. It’s home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. And 85% of it is under water. It may be this way for weeks. The aftermath of Katrina captured the world’s attention. The aftermath of Harvey is going to grab you by the lapels, and shake you ’til you’re cross eyed.

I am done with the ugly now. I just can’t write anymore. My heart cannot bear to write about this anymore. I’ve already had to crack open a bottle of wine to write this.

Here comes the good (this is my favorite part of this post) get ready to have your faith in humanity restored. God Bless each and every one of the people I am about to mention (and the many more who I haven’t…there are thousands upon thousands helping).

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If Houston built an ark….

THE GOOD

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We are Texas proud. We are Texas strong. It does not matter if this damn storm dumps an ocean on us we will pull through, help one another, and build an even better Texas.

To kick this section off check out this post….it does a good job explaining our ways in the south and how we’re trained from a young age to be helpers. I could not agree with it more! I’ll always remember my Nana pushing me to “do at least a single good deed for someone else” daily…whether it was unloading groceries for a lady in a wheelchair cart at the grocery store or helping my mom cook dinner. All these small acts translate into our innate ability and nature to help everyone around us in the event of large scale disaster.

Before I move into mentioning specific folks I just want you guys to read some really great posts and positive outlooks that I had to screen cap from my Facebook and share…this section is going to be a huge sharing of things I’ve seen on Facebook all week:

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Guys this is just a drop in the bucket of the amazing people I know and have seen on Facebook…the first group I want to start out with are all the Sea Aggies down at Texas A&M University at Galveston . I spent the last 5 years of my life at that school and as a recent graduate…my peers never fail to make me proud of the amazing things they do. Even the little things during this disaster like coordinating boat pick ups, warning other students of road hazards, or starting a thread on our student page so that we could offer housing for students in need.

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One of my best friends from college is a manager at Petsmart on the island, his store even donated several crates and items to help out with all the fur babies being rescued!

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I also have some ties to our Islander friends at TAMU Corpus Christi (they are Aggies, too!) and they are doing some pretty amazing things. After traveling a whole day from being evacuated to San Antonio, my friend Ashley Ferguson went to Port Aransas the next morning to begin helping victims clean up.

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Look at those muscles!

This next group of Aggies (I hope I have all their names) went out and about in Dickinson, League City, Houston, and surrounding areas with their own personal boats and began rescuing people who were stranded. I want to personally say thank you to:

Austin Seth, Kyle Holmes, Hunter Woodcock, Paul Thorburn, Alex Nelson, Tommy Edwards, Elizabeth Schneider, Justin Leason, Wyatt Frehe, Bryndin Hartman, Andy Moffet, Parker Meek, Nick Lamb, Colton Lewis, Brett Stepanski, Avery Fuller, and Michael “Sharky” Marquez.

 

I wish I had pictures to represent each one of these brave and selfless Aggies. You are part of the reason why I am so proud to have graduated from TAMUG.

In addition to my Aggie friends so many other entities are performing boat rescues…I know a handful of folks who I went to high school with, local authorities such as our Texas Game Wardens, the Texas National Guard, local (and not local like the New Yorkers who came down) police and fire departments, and even the Galveston Island Beach Patrol came on jet skis.

Check out a short clip of all the boats coming to help out in Dickinson here.

This video shared below brought literal tears to my eyes…a shiver ran down my spine within the first few seconds – when a local boat owner was asked “What are you going to do?” and he responded “I’m going to save some lives.”

Check out the video by Space City Sports here….and get the tissues ready.

I also want to recognize the Cajun Navy – a group of duck hunters, fishermen, and all around good ol’ boys from Louisiana. These guys left the comfort of their own state to come and perform boat rescues. Once again, truly amazing. They saved so many lives in the past couple of days….and they have even given rise to our very own Texas Navy (which I hope to become a part of as soon as we buy a boat).

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The Cajun Navy fleet on their way to Texas.

Countless food banks and churches have also been housing flood victims but one particular one that I’d like to mention is Emanuel Church over in Houston….not only have they been helping members of the community…they DROVE into the flooded areas to rescue people. The Garcias and Julian Macias are truly remarkable people who deserve a mention for the work they have done with their church.

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While the rescues of our fellow man have been in the news…some overlooked stories include the rescue of man’s best friend and other assorted creatures. There are so many people working to help all our fur babies whether it’s my friend Corbin at Petsmart donating crates or these folks in Houston rescuing bats:

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I might be a fish girl but I have a huge soft spot for bats. I love sitting next to Buffalo Bayou when I get the chance to visit Houston and watching these creatures fly across the evening sky!

Check out the bat rescue here!

This gentleman decided to rescue a carp! How that happened with this entire region of Texas becoming an ocean…we’re not sure:

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Check out the carp rescue here!

Also, this is literally me in the future. For those of you who don’t know…it is my dream to retire to the Hill Country and own a donkey ranch. I just love donkeys. This lady in Katy (ironic huh?) opened up her yard to several donkeys who were refugees from the flooding! David you better be glad we don’t have a back yard….

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A friend of mine from high school even took his boat out and started rescuing dogs left behind in the floods (this is in addition to SEVERAL people he rescued). Thank you Casey Hicks:

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By far one of my FAVORITE animal rescues in this whole ordeal came from my hometown in Dayton, TX where local farmers and ranchers drove cattle pastured in the river bottoms across town (down our main highway) to higher ground. Yes, I am from a little town in East Texas, and no, we don’t ride horses to school.

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Check out the cattle drive here!

For this next section I want to take a minute to recognize the many local businesses in the area that are helping out! These folks will forever have my business for all the things they’ve done for us:

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Oh that Beaver…Buc-ee’s a Texas based gas station welcomed first responders into their Katy location for a place to rest and eat. The owners told them to take whatever they needed – it was on Buc-ee’s.
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HEB is a Texas chain of grocery stores. They have a mobile disaster relief unit and these trucks loaded with supplies and food were deployed to South Texas the day after the storm made landfall. Y’all….HEB beat FEMA and the Red Cross to Texas – just think about that.
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Mattress Mac…everyone in Houston knows and loves him. He opened up several of his furniture stores before shelters even began opening. He’s one of the only furniture stores that I know of doing this. Evacuees were fed and told to pick a bed! This guy never ceases to amaze me with the great things he does for our community.
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I mean we’ll take the beer, too…but this is great!

Y’all my blog’s name is Girl with the Big Bass….I’m super proud of the next place. I spend a lot of money there and boy am I proud I do….Bass Pro Shop is donating boats to rescue efforts and $40k worth of protein rich foods (jerky, meal replacement bars, etc.) to the American Red Cross…check out the article here.

This next kid may not be a business owner but he’s going places.

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Check out this young man selling sweet tea and lemonade for Texas all the way up in Pennsylvania right here.

There are so many countless acts of charity and goodwill going on right now that it’s so hard to document all of them. I hope you’ve had your faith in humanity restored at this point.

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The next group of folks I want to talk about in the “good” section are the Texas tough ones – the resilient bunch who no matter what hits them – they get right back up and stand their ground.

The first one I want to share is one of the most important men in my life – my sweet Grandpa:

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And check out these Aggie engineers who thought quickly to keep their car from flooding:

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Most of us who braved the roads once flood waters began receding were after staples like bread, milk, eggs (for me chicken strips)….check out these ladies who made their OWN bread when the going got tough and store shelves were wiped clean:

The next section of folks I’d like to highlight are the ones who have brought some serious sunshine into my life….the ones who’ve made me laugh until my sides hurt! These are the folks who are making the best of things and finding a way to smile even during the worst disaster we’ve ever seen.

I’d like to start with this adorable video of kids playing in the rain…their parents had the chance to make a hilarious home video:

Don’t kids just say the darnedest things?

The next video I want to share is of a man rocking out in his garage and reminding the rest of his neighborhood what it means to be an American. Watch it here.

The next group of people took the floods and time off work to participate in one of my all time favorite hobbies: FISHING. Check out these avid anglers!

In case you were wondering….they’re all my family! Left to right is cousin Keith with his bowfin, Uncle Ned taking advantage of Lake Conroe being at his doorstep, and baby cousin Carter fishing in the puddles.

The next rowdy bunch are all my beer drinkers and flood water floaters! Check out some of these posts and videos from people that did not let hurricane Harvey stop them from having a good time and making the best of things!

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Galveston or the Hill Country? You decide. Check out these tubers!

These guys had some company over at Brews Brothers earlier in the week – I am beginning to believe that Galveston is giving the Hill Country a run for its money…Shotgunning on Strand St….I’ll take it!

Speaking of Galveston…this reporter got a firsthand taste of Southern Hospitality and Galveston culture when he scored a six pack of Tiki Wheat!

 

What goes well with all that beer you ask? How about five boxes of macaroni and cheese and some battery operated flamingo lights…check out my friend Ashley making the best of things down in Galveston!

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This next video shows some rescuers sharing a big blue bottle of water with some of the flood victims – I’m pretty sure everyone involved could have used a drink!

Now that we’re done with all the fun and games….

I want to end this with a video clip from two brave men who came here from Kentucky to help with boat rescues…he says he’s never seen so much love in a place in his life. Sir, I am so glad that you got a taste of what my Texas is like – even at the worst times.

 

That’s it for now folks. I’m headed out the door to see what local shelters need my help. Y’all let’s get out there and help each other out…find someone in need, a shelter, let’s get Texas back to normal.

I’ll be back working on another post of some of the MANY ways you can give back or donate to this catastrophe. I am friends with some awesome business owners who are helping out!

Until then..Y’all stay classy. I love y’all.

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Pre-hurricane chilling, enjoying the wind in my hammock.

–The Girl With the Big Bass

Hurricane Harvey Playlist

Some tunes to get you through the rainy day blues.

Howdy guys!

I’m currently working on cranking out a really long post about hurricane Harvey but in the meantime I wanted to put together a playlist. Most of these songs were requested by my Facebook friends but a lot of them are my own personal favorites!

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Without further ado… here is the dope ass hurricane Harvey playlist:

  1. Rock You Like a Hurricane – The Scorpions
  2. Ridin’ The Storm Out – REO Speedwagon
  3. Who’ll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  4. Shelter From the Storm – Bob Dylan
  5. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
  6. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughn (MY PERSONAL FAVORITE)
  7. Like a Hurricane – Neil Young
  8. One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer – George Thorogood (So is rent still due on the first this month??)
  9. It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – Allan Jackson ft. Jimmy Buffett (For those of us drinking around the clock to cope with this damn storm)
  10. Riders on the Storm – The Doors
  11. Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
  12. It’s Raining – Inara George
  13. Didn’t It Rain – Hugh Laurie
  14. Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  15. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
  16. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls (Damn I wish it was raining hot bearded men instead of water in Houston)
  17. Stayin’ Alive – BeeGees
  18. It’s Raining Again – Supertramp
  19. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
  20. Umbrella – Rihanna
  21. Five Feet High and Rising – Johnny Cash
  22. Singin’ In the Rain – Gene Kelly (Just because I LOVE this musical)
  23. Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
  24. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  25. No Rain – Blind Melon
  26. Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer – Billy Currington (For those of us trapped and making the best of it)
  27. Purple Rain – Prince (Lord knows we’ve had too much of that in Houston)
  28. When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
  29. Rain – Creed
  30. Swangin’ in the Rain – Paul Wall
  31. Rolling in the Deep – Adele
  32. Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas
  33. When It Rains – Eli Young Band
  34. Blowin’ In the Wind – Bob Dylan
  35. Redneck Yacht Club – Craig Morgan (For all y’all in pool floaties and kayaks making the best of this)
  36. Brain Damage – Pink Floyd
  37. Losing My Religion – R.E.M.
  38. Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In) – The Fifth Dimension
  39. Hurricane Drunk – Florence the Machine
  40. Crazy On You – Heart (For those of us going stir crazy stuck inside)
  41. HERE COMES THE TEXAS PRIDE!
  42. 100 Percent Texan – Kevin Fowler
  43. Deep in the Heart of Texas 
  44. My Texas – Josh Abbott Band
  45. God Blessed Texas – Little Texas
  46. Wanna Be a Baller – Lil’ Troy (For all my H-town peeps – you ALL know this one)
  47. Texas Forever – Kevin Fowler (Because we are Texas proud and Texas strong!)

 

I also want to show this piece of gold I found floating around on Facebook…can someone actually make this a song?

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I hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did and it gives you something to listen to while stuck at home – stay safe and dry my friends!

–The Girl with the Big Bass

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This was a couple weeks ago but you get the point…IT’S RAININ’!

Palmer Station: Home of the Party People and the Penguins

Glacier hiking, whiskey over glacier ice, and a little light penguin stalking makes for an awesome time at Palmer Station.

After a smooth as butter crossing across the Drake Passage and the most scenic views I’d ever seen (read and see them HERE) in my life, we arrived at Palmer Station, Antarctica which is located on the Southern tip of Anvers Island. The first thing we were greeted with after leaving the Neumayer Channel and entered into the realm of Palmer was the smell. Some complained, but others like me relished in the smell of hundreds of penguins perched upon high rocks in the heat of breeding season. Although not visible, proud parents stood guard of tiny penguin chicks on several of these rocks surrounding station. We watched a few awkward Gentoo’s and Adelie’s slide and waddle around on the rocks.

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As we approached the station, we were greeted with two VERY large icebergs that were taller than the ship. In order to dock we even had to sail right next to one. We were so close you could feel the cold coming off the berg. If you had a broomstick, you could have touched it. Don’t worry – since I’m here writing this…we didn’t share the same fate as the Titanic.

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Folks at Palmer Station all walked out of the station to greet us with waves, excited to meet new people and receive a shipment of goods (and freshies! Remember talking about the freshies HERE?). We arrived at station a whole half a day early which was amazing because we had more time to explore and get to know the scientists living and working there.

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Palmer Station itself sits at the bottom of a very large glacier, and for those willing to make the climb – it offers the most breathtaking views of the station, Arthur Harbor, and the back side of the mountains lining the Neumayer Channel.

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My inner Texan panicked at the words “glacier hike”. I’ll just preface this with the fact that everyone around me is either East Coast or used to the snow or has been coming to Antarctica for years. Then you’ve got me. Little Texas girl who has maybe seen snow three times in her life and walked in ankle deep snow once. Yet I was brave enough to go along with this glacier hiking. After asking around and gathering as much advice from the rest of the scientists on board I finally figured out what to wear, bring, etc. Dressing in a single layer of long underwear with short sleeves and yoga pants on top I was ready (it’s really not THAT cold here guys). I layered two pairs of wool socks under the world’s largest and clunkiest “hiking boots” that I obtained from gear issue back in South America. Remember the last post where we talked about gear issue being completely cleaned out by the folks on the other research vessel (if not read it HERE)? That was the case here. These boots were HUGE and HEAVY. You’ll see where this ends up in a bit.

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Grabbing sunglasses and my Mahi buff (I refused to leave that at home!) I was out the door, across the gangway, and joining my lab group to go on a hike. The first portion of the hike is through what is called the “backyard” behind Palmer Station. It is a very rocky pit underneath the glacier, which can get quite slippery when covered in snow and ice. A flock of Skua (really ugly and vicious brown birds, like angry ravens) settled in the rock a few hundred feet away from us. I made sure to keep my distance because they are notorious for attacking anything in their path.

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After making it out of the backyard, that is where the climb began. First we climbed over dense ice that had been carved by melting snow (remember it is summer time here). After making it through this portion of the hike, came the hard part: the white fluffy shit. As a native Texan, it is engrained in my DNA to hate the white fluffy shit that is referred to as snow. Very pretty to look at, but we are not physically adapted to handle it.

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I’m the little short thing with the blue backpack and the camo beanie.

My first step into the white fluffy shit landed me knee deep. It was at this moment in time that I began to think about all those skipped gym days and how actually pushing myself on the elliptical would have been a good idea. The initial hike through this white fluffy shit was not as bad as I thought. I kept pace with my group. Then came the fall.

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Those damn clunky boots, like extra lead weights strapped to my feet betrayed me on this uphill hike. I felt my ankle twist below me and then searing pain. I said a few choice words and continued to try and keep pace with my group. The effort was in vain as I was left alone to enjoy the view and endure the white fluffy shit. Mind you, this is a glacier, a nearly vertical climb upward. The promise of the view kept me going as I struggled to drag my bum ankle through the snow. With the sun shining brightly above me, I wanted to strip down to shorts and a t-shirt. I began feeling like Chevy Chase in that scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation after they had been stranded in the desert.

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After arriving at the top of this glacier looking like a war torn victim with even more hate for snow…it was worth it. In combination with being out of shape and making this climb…the view completely took my breath away.

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Silence. You could hear nothing. No cars, no planes above, no chatter of other human beings. Just silence until the loud rumble of thunder in the background broke this silence. We listened as we heard the wind blow around us and glaciers cave into the sea below. I have a really hard time conveying to my readers just how pristine and beautiful this place truly is. Being off of the grid for the most part has been an amazing experience. You have a lot of time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy how great life truly is.

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While others hiked down the other side of the glacier (and had to eventually come back up). I opted out with my bum ankle. I also wanted a few moments alone at the top of this glacier to just sit and reflect and not think about papers, deadlines, bills to be paid, and any other daily worries. This was probably one of the healthiest moments I’ve had lately with the amount of stress I had been under the months leading up to this voyage. I was truly grateful for it and I hope that by sharing my pictures and stories that my readers can draw off some of that positive energy.

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After spending some time on top of the glacier, it was time to make my way back down which was a MUCH more enjoyable experience as my back was no longer turned to the view and that I did not have to struggle through thigh deep snow on an upward incline.

Once I returned to the ship….I showered and slept because it had been quite the day. Tomorrow’s adventure? A game of speed dating (David approved).

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The next morning after sleeping in (until 10 AM!) I had a late breakfast with my favorite bearded sailor and we made plans to go walk around the station for a bit and hopefully get a tour. One of my lab mates showed us around. We explored the lab areas, galley, and then were taken to the recreational building. There was a fully stocked gym, cabins where scientists stayed, a lounge with a big tv, movies, etc., a bar (woohoo!) and a deck located on the other side of the bar (with amazing views of the harbor, of course!).

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The best part was a tall, slightly rickety ladder that led to a crow’s nest on top of the rec building and guess what was at the top…..EVEN MORE AMAZING VIEWS!

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The folks at Palmer are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful, ever changing environment. We were showed where the store was afterwards (it only opens for a half hour at a time and usually only when there are guests in town) and a really neat closet called “SKUA” but unlike the bird, there were no surprise attacks. It is simply a closet where station off-going occupants can donate items like clothes, costumes, etc. for others to take. There is no shortage of crazy costumes in the closet. We found a mullet wig, a flamingo hat (which I took as my lucky MOCNESS costume), a mermaid tail, and a whole stack full of sweaters fit for the rack at your local Goodwill.

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After a tour, we were left to explore the station on our own, which resulted in some heavy penguin stalking. Yes readers, I did squeal in delight as I saw my first Gentoo penguin up close. There was even more shrieking as I watched it awkwardly slip and fall into the ice cold water. These awkward little tuxedo chickens will quickly work their way into the hearts of whoever is watching.

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For those asking me for feathers, rocks, whole penguins (greedy bunch you are) it is strictly forbidden! In order to keep this continent pristine and healthy, the Antarctic Treaty states that you’re not allowed to bring any part of it back and you’re only allowed to be within 5 meters of any animal, or farther away if their behavior becomes altered due to your presence.

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A quick lunch followed, and reading a book while sitting on the deck and basking in the sunshine. We got word that the station store was set to open at 5PM for thirty minutes. Everyone impatiently waited outside as this is the one chance in the cruise to buy alcohol since we have a dry ship (all alcohol gets labeled with your name and left at the Palmer Station bar). Oh and t-shirts and all that good crap for your family, of course. Spoiler alert: You’re all getting stickers!

At 6PM we suited up to go for a zodiac (smaller, raft looking boats) ride in Arthur Harbor. Donning a couple base layers, float coat, hat, gloves, water proof pants, and boots feeling much like Ralphie’s brother from A Christmas story, we hobbled into zodiacs from the floating dock next to the ship.

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This actually isn’t what I wore but it felt like it.

Brash ice (really flaky, thinner ice) from the two icebergs that greeted us when we docked at station now littered the waters around the ship and dock. Our zodiac tore through it easily as we made our way into Arthur Harbor. We got a close up view of two different penguin colonies (and smell). After checking the penguins out and watching them awkwardly hobble and slide into the water, we cruised over to some really cool icebergs. There’s something really special about the beautiful, turquoise blue ones that just captivate everyone who visits. Iceberg blue, as I have been calling it, is one of my new favorite colors.

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We were able to see a few elephant seals snoozing lazily in the late afternoon sun on some of the bergs. Our zodiac captain even brought us next to a small, rocky piece of land (located right between the two penguin colonies of course) called “Seal Island” where most of the Palmer seals could be found.

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We ventured a little further into the harbor checking out some icebergs when another scientist pointed out seeing a whale surface in the distance. Excitedly we began heading towards the whale. We must have found the most curious whale in the harbor because as we headed towards him, he decided to surface within feet of our zodiac. We all screamed, some out of excitement because whales are awesome, but in my case because A) I thought that whale was going to flip our zodiac B) The water is cold as a witch’s titty and C) For the second time in the past six months, I didn’t want to pee my pants again.

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Luckily another passenger in the zodiac was quick enough to take some amazing pictures of the Humpback whale, so what I’m sharing on this blog is his work, thank you to Tyler from the Ducklow lab for sharing your pictures with the rest of us and catching that beautiful moment in time!

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Sorry readers, I was not brave enough to bring my camera into the zodiac (I did have my phone though). We slowly puttered around this whale for at least 30 minutes as he put on a show for us, surfacing, waving, spewing water from his blowhole. I will say it again…I am not a mammals person, but realizing how small you are next to a creature that large and beautiful…it is really a humbling experience.

We rushed back to station to change and get ready for speed dating. David approved, of course! The game was much more like speed friending, it was a great opportunity to spend 4 minutes getting to know each of the scientists and what brought them to Palmer Station. There were no fellow Texans, sadly. We had score cards to score each of our dates, either you loved them, wanted to get to know them better, meh, or disliked them. Everyone was pretty interesting and only two people got dislikes. One was a crotchety old man, and the other was a lady who said she hated all Texans and donkeys. I can’t be friends with anyone who dislikes donkeys. That’s just a deal breaker. By far my favorite “date” of the night was a guy about a foot shorter than me whose name was “Hot Mike”. Anyone who shares whiskey with me out of a nalgene sample bottle gets a heart on the speed dating score sheet.

After spending some time getting to know the Palmer Station folks, we all took our purchased booze from the Palmer Station store (they had a REALLY extensive selection) and headed to the bar. Tonight was DANCE PARTY NIGHT!

On the porch of the bar was a large block of glacier ice older than your great grandparents. Probably sounds like some fancy city slicker bar, but it was just collected from the harbor via zodiac. We all spent some time socializing and asking about research, and how the hell did you get to Antarctica and then when everyone began feeling it…the dance party began.

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To be in the Steinberg Zooplankton Lab…it is a requirement that you like to dance. Our advisor, Debbie was front and center on the floor. The party continued until 12:30 when the station bar shuts down. We all walked back to the ship, admiring penguins and seals along the way. There’s something to be said about having so much fun in the most desolate place on Earth.

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Can you spot the seal and penguin? They were ready to crash for the night.

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The next day we spent some time on deck building our MOCNESS net. MOCNESS for all my non-fisheries folk stands for multiple opening and closing net and environmental sensing system. Pretty much it’s 9 nets that are strung on a frame and a scientist at a computer tells the net when to open and close each one. It allows us to sample and catch critters at different depths. This is really useful since we usually see quite a bit of diversity between the ranges of depths. The net will also give us a read out of environmental data such as temperature and salinity (how salty the water is).

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The unfinished MOCNESS in all its glory.

We spent our morning adding the nets to the frames and what we call the “cod” ends. It’s a PVC pipe with mesh covered holes that all the animals get collected in as we pull the net through the water. They have to be fastened to the net with clips and then…duct taped for extra security. Duct tape is a staple in our lab!

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After building the MOCNESS we spent some time discussing how all of the lab work and deck work would be done and did a few mock run throughs. Believe it or not…studying the zooplankton is so much more than just putting nets in the water. It takes a team to ensure that there is a successful net tow. We have an MT (marine technician) and another lab member on deck who are responsible for putting the net in the water, making sure flowmeters (they record the total volume of water that has gone through the net) are attached, communicating with the winch operator, bridge (where the captain and mates drive the ship from), and the lab. Inside the lab is another person who must record data pertaining to the net tow such as water temperature, salinity, wind speed and direction, sea ice coverage and wave height, GPS coordinates, time, specific tow and event numbers, and much more. Communication between all the parties via ship radio is key in this whole process! Not to mention in the rolling seas the deck is a VERY dangerous place. It can be slippery, objects such as weights, nets, frames, etc. can cause operators to trip. The ship has a large gate at the stern which opens up so nets can be deployed. A steep drop leads to the abyss below which on average is about 3000 feet deep (Usually it ranges from 600-9000 feet deep). A fall into this water would kill you within minutes as hypothermia and shock set in. However, if you’re working deploying nets (which I do most of the time!) you have to be tethered to the ship with a safety line that prevents you from falling overboard. The part that concerns me the most is that the nets are made with large, steel frames. A simple miscalculation by the winch operator or shift in the wind could cause the net to knock out or crush a person to death. A hydraulic A-frame at the stern aids the winch in lowering these nets into the water. You’re probably realizing by now just how large they are….they have radii of ~3 feet and ~6 feet and are probably about 30-50 feet long. I’ll stop here with describing the logistics…for more info you’ll have to read my next few posts about life on the ship and doing science at sea!

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The Palmer Station Lab

After building nets and getting some lab work done before leaving port (guys I actually science-d INSIDE the Palmer Station lab!) I decided to take a much needed nap after dinner. When I woke up, I realized I had missed trivia night at the station. I did happen to catch a great photo of an oddly shaped iceberg.

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Early the next morning we pulled away from the station. I was nervous at the fact that the real deal was about to begin. I had already shared a week’s worth of time with all the experts on this boat…and now it was time to perform.

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Keep it classy, friends. Until next time.

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Palmer in shorts? Okay.

–The Girl with the Big Bass

What happened? Did you freeze to death!?

Hello dear readers!

A lot has happened since now and when we left off at crossing the Drake Passage. You all missed nearly ever tale of Antarctica!

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The good news is….all of the posts are actually written! I never stopped writing, even though I lost internet connection. It was my hope that I would have the bandwith to literally copy and paste my posts to share with you guys. That never happened. Unfortunately a lot of things like live streaming the Super Bowl (who even cares about the Patriots?) to Palmer Station took priority.

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So this post is just a short informational piece letting you know that I’ll be continuing the tales of my Antarctic travels…I’ll be ending them with a post about the proposal. For those of you who don’t know – I actually got engaged while I was there!

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From there the blog will continue – I’d love to share some of my thesis work with you and also talk about my current internship (tagging sharks and getting paid to FISH). It is my hope that my life will be as exciting as it was before and that this blog can serve as entertainment but also education of the many things going on in the marine biology world. Also I will continue with the humorous memes.

So what do you say, readers, still up for the adventure?

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–The Girl With the Big Bass (and the big sharks, red snappers, and now an engagement ring)

I haven’t turned into a Popsicle yet.

Sailing into Antarctica…are we there yet??

This global transportation bottleneck some 600 miles wide marks the convergence of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. Its volatility, where the waves, winds, and currents all seemingly conspire against any intrepid adventurers, is due to the Drake’s position as a zone of climactic transition; the Passage divides the the cool, sub-polar conditions of the southernmost bits of South America from the frigid, polar regions of Antarctica. Creeping down the latitudes to reach the most favorable passage, either around the Cape or down to Antarctica, means weathering by turns the “roaring 40s,” “furious 50s,” and “screaming 60s.” Even Charles Darwin, who famously made comprehensive studies of the flora, fauna, and topography of these regions aboard the HMS Beagle in the mid-1800s, was sensationally seasick while rounding Cape Horn.

-Cynthia Dresher

Other than the worry that my scientist friends would think that I was an idiotic redneck my biggest worry was crossing the Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is notorious for being some of the roughest waters on the planet. David has seen 40 foot waves in the Drake but some say the waves can get upwards of 60 feet. The biggest thing I had ever experienced? Eight footers in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Apparently, grabbing the entire foot of the Magellan statue in the square at Punta Arenas (read about it here) worked. As much as I hate feet, I’m glad that I touched the golden foot because our forecasted weather was for 3-5 footers and sunny weather. This weather is unheard of. Seasoned veterans said that they had never seen conditions this good in their entire lifetime of coming to Antarctica.

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After months of mentally preparing myself for being thrown around the ship, strapping myself into my bunk, dealing with an endless sea of vomit from sea sick people, etc. this was the ultimate letdown.

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Much how I imagined the common areas of the ship would be during our crossing.

However, we had the most beautiful crossing – we barely even felt a thing. I spent time out on the deck with the rest of my crew building some nets and enjoying the sunshine. No one was miserable! Everyone’s been knocking on wood because we still have to get home…

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Building our 1 and 2-meter nets on the deck. Ready for some zooplankton!

We were also really lucky to sign up for shifts for the launch of “XBT’s”. Aka shooting little missiles from a gun (really wasn’t a gun, that I found to my dismay. I was expecting some cool explosions and a loud bang when in reality you simply pull a pin out and it kind of topples awkwardly over the rail) into the water that helped to map temperature and salinity gradients as well as help to discern the bathymetric profile within the Drake Passage. I never really paid attention to much in Oceanography but props to Mr. Coleman (Bob Ross of the ocean) because this was some pretty interesting stuff.

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Since the video of us doing XBT’s won’t upload to the blog, please enjoy this re-created version, which is only a *slightly* augmented stock photo found on the internet.

On New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a nice few games of bingo! I even won a round – part of my prize consisted of a toothbrush cover and temporary tattoos of puppies in shoes. We all celebrated at midnight with a dance party and sparkling apple juice on the bow of the ship (no alcohol is allowed underway or on the ship at all- just at port).

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Grundens and Xtra Tuffs – basically my second skin. Ready for some net building on deck!

The next day we had the typical cabbage and black eyed peas meal in the galley (the cook is from Texas so the food is great). The boat was teeming with excitement because for the first time in 3 days we were about to reach land. We dropped some folks from NOAA’s branch of Antarctic research off at a little field camp at Cape Sheriff. Seasoned veterans the the science crew spending a season at the cape hopped into zodiacs loaded with supplies and helped set up camp. The scenery was beautiful – but there was more to come the next day as we were set to sail through the Neumayer Channel – one of the most picturesque places on the continent.

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View of Cape Sheriff.

After dropping our seal studying friends off at the cape, we were headed straight for Palmer Station which is located on Anvers Island. I can’t even begin to describe the scenery to you. It was like placing yourself in a post card. A really freaking cold post card.

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I kicked off the morning enjoying a light snow and a coffee with my bearded fellow on the bridge. It was nice to take in all the scenery together and a perfect way to start the morning!

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Don’t worry, the white stuff is snow.

Mountains towered on both sides the ship – the channel was so narrow, you feel like you could reach out and touch them.

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Penguins swam next to the ship, curiously checking out our orange hull. Humpback whales surfaced in the distance (a juvenile even surfaced right next to the ship). I’m not much of a mammal person at all…but seeing that was kind of cool.

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A majority of the people on the ship spent the entire day on the bridge taking pictures. One of the engineers joked, “If I had a dollar for every picture taken today up here, hell I’d be rich!” He would have been $658 richer by the time I finished with the day…but multiply that by about 20 excited scientists. My roommate probably took a couple thousand photos at least. You could never have enough pictures of this place – it is just so beautiful.

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After my camera batteries were nearly dead and I couldn’t stand to be social anymore – I ventured to the back 01 deck for some quiet time. I spent the rest of my afternoon laying in the sun…with NO JACKET…enjoying a good book. It was hard to pay attention to the book as we continued to pass by aqua blue icebergs (some carrying very cute, and clumsy penguins) and even more mountains.

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We even passed a huge iceberg full of seals, and one lonely penguin. I thought for a minute there I’d have to put my kindle down and watch some National Geographic style carnage unfold…and of course document it for all my dear readers. Sorry guys – nature is nature and carnage happens regularly out here in the Antarctic.

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Our trip through the Neumayer channel came to a close as we pulled up to Palmer Station – an American research base where we’ve been docked for the past few days now. We were greeted by two VERY large icebergs and a very large penguin colony (there were babies!) as we pulled up to the station.

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The next edition of this blog will detail the good times and eclectic folks we met at Palmer Station…it even includes me being buried almost waist deep hiking up a glacier and taking a zodiac ride where we were almost flipped by a surfacing Humpback whale. Maybe if I have time during our many net tows and MOCNESS tows (please read that in Dr. Alvarado’s voice all my TAMUG friends) I’ll be able to get plenty of pics to give everyone a run down of what life on the ship is like.

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Stay classy my friends. If you need me I’ll probably be downing a fifth of Jack at Palmer Station and stalking some penguins. This….is the life.

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–The Girl with the Big Bass

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The Journey

Adventures in South America!

*Disclaimer: This is a really long blog post!*

Day 1:

Houston, Texas (HOU) –> Dallas, Texas (DFW)

I left Texas with a heavy heart after telling my favorite little fish at work goodbye and hugging my family tight. I thought about how much taller my two nephews would be when I returned. I hoped that orange Julius (our cat) didn’t feel abandoned. I worried that he might have chosen to run away, but let’s be real the only thing that fatty runs for is food being dropped in the bowl. I shoved my face full of Whataburger and Dr. Pepper as a last meal.

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Security through Houston was a breeze and I even had time to do some people watching at my gate (See my last post here). However, the first flight began with a rocky start. I was crammed into an express jet that had an overhead that wasn’t even able to fit my carry on. Typical. Frazzled and panicked that I’d have to check the bag that held the most important shit I had to pack for this trip, the flight attendant let me unpack the bag and fit the contents into the overhead (you’re welcome for me transporting your camera, David, it was the culprit). For a minute there I was that bumbling idiot “You can’t check my bag, you can’t have it!” But don’t worry guys – this isn’t where the post ends. The scene from Meet the Parents did not end up becoming real life for me.

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I definitely looked like a frazzled idiot. I want to thank all the folks on that flight for their help. Also not thank you to the women in the back who whispered back and forth about blessing my poor little heart. For all my non-southern readers, this basically means “Screw you” in southern speak.

Also, let’s take a minute to talk about stress sweat. Readers – we are past the point of awkward comfortability in this blog. You already got a chance to read about how at the age of 23, I peed my pants (And if you haven’t you can read all about it here).

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Stress sweat is a real thing. My poor hoodie at this point of the bag debacle had rings down to my side. Embarrassing. The poor guy next to me probably thought he had to sit next to the stinky kid. I swear I smelled like peaches because my dove deodorant has never failed me!

Dallas (DFW) –> Santiago, Chile (SCL)

Then came riding the tram in the DFW airport which was much like being in a Guatemalan taxi (which I’ve never been in but my friend Corbin decided to coin this phrase and it stuck). It only took me a couple rides to get to the correct gate. The flight itself wasn’t bad, it had Wi-Fi, movies, and even a charging port. This was the really long, overnight flight (about 9.5 hours).

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This is actually what comes up on Google when you type in “Guatemalan Taxi”.

Day 2:

Dallas (DFW) –> Santiago, Chile (SCL) CONTINUED

Let’s talk for a bit about trying to sleep on a plane. As a person who can easily sleep sitting up in class, in a shark cradle on a rocking boat, or even just passed out on the floor, I could not sleep on this flight. It was the most uncomfortable thing on the planet. I joked when USAP (United States Antarctic Program) sent me a little sheet about relieving cramps, improving circulation, and discomfort while flying. The cramps were real. I think I slept for about 2 hours. The food was actually pretty decent. A fellow scientist here got an upgrade to first class – which we were all completely jealous of…

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Upon landing in Santiago, Chile is where the real circus began. I thought I would be coming in alone, but the group from the Northeast arrived at the same time. The “science crew” as we called the 25 people crazy enough to come down here to study, was marshalled through immigration by a little agent named Jimmy. I happily collected my first “real” stamp on my passport, finally (sorry guys I can’t even count our cruise as a first foreign country experience, being herded like cattle through a tourist fronted place and eating at Margaritaville is not travelling).

I am thankful that this leg of the trip went well because I was the most worried about getting lost in the Santiago airport.

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I’m not really sure what M&M’s was going for here.

Santiago, Chile (SCL) –> Puerto Montt, Chile (PMC)

Luggage had to be recollected and checked again for our now domestic flights. Our customs forms were snapped up by Jimmy and we passed through with no issue at all (don’t worry family, I was well taken care of). The drug dogs were particularly cute and not as serious as their American counterparts.

Mounds of luggage and the “science crew” were then transported to Jimmy’s office where we would wait between the two flights. With so much spare time I got my first taste of Chilean food and dose of culture shock. We decided to dine at a place called Gatsby’s but first had to go to the ATM to get pesos. I really should have taken the time to figure out what the conversion rate was. I got 150,000 from the ATM which was equivalent to about $220 USD. My first foreign meal was “Ave con palta” which translate roughly to sandwich with avocado, chicken, and mayonnaise. Chileans LOVE mayonnaise. I was able to figure this out on the first day after receiving a sandwich with about half a year’s portion worth of mayonnaise. Also once you venture into Chile water is no longer just “agua” like my ignorance had hoped. You must order either “aqua sin gas” or “aqua con gas”. Do you want water with no bubbles or sparkling water? Thankfully someone with better Spanish could tell me what the waitress was rattling off furiously trying to explain to me. In order to pay the bill, you must as for “la cuenta” which is something I remembered from my first basic Spanish class (gracias senora Bailey). Unlike the states, when you sit down to eat a meal as a group you enjoy one another’s company and the waitress/waiter will not burden you with a check in hopes to get rid of you.

After eating lunch, it was time to begin the process of re-checking bags, going through security, and then waiting at the gate for the next round of flights. The flight to Puerto Montt was particularly gorgeous. We passed over many mountain ranges, rolling hills, and even a couple of volcanoes from what I could understand. I was told by seasoned veterans that the best scenery would come on the next flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. While waiting at the gate in Santiago for the last small stretch of flights, all I could think about how was in my life I had never wanted to lay horizontal and drink a beer so bad in my life.

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Puerto Montt, Chile (PMC) –> Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ)

Once we arrived at Puerto Montt, we were lucky enough to stay seated on the same plane (which had an AWESOME amount of leg room). I was thankful to not have to do the airport shuffle again but this would have been the easiest navigable airport of all that we visited. Puerto Montt has exactly one runway and five gates. You can see the entire airport from your window just sitting on the tarmac.

After picking up another round of passengers, we were ready for the last flight of the journey down South, from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, Chile. As the others had indicated, the scenery was even more beautiful before as some type of foreshadowing that the further south we went, the prettier it got. I spent most of this plane ride trying to sleep for a few minutes then waking up to snap a picture, sleep, snap, sleep, snap.

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Finally flying over the blue waters of this port town, we had arrived in Punta Arenas. From my airplane window I immediately recognized the bright orange hull of the ship that I’d call home for the next 45 days. My heart fluttered a bit thinking I was also a little bit closer to being reunited again with David after almost two months of being apart. I am very thankful that we’re getting to cheat the system and win more time together. I was also thankful that once we arrived in Punta Arenas, I’d have my own tour guide who had spent a couple years down here.

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The first night in Punta Arenas

From the airport the “science crew” was ushered out with bags in hand (or cart in our cases which are FREE at airports down here) to vans where we loaded up and headed for a hotel for a night stay on the town. Once we arrived at Diego del Almagro we were issued key cards to our rooms. If you have never traveled to and stayed in another foreign country let me bestow a bit of advice upon you: apparently you have to “activate” the lights before they will actually come on. I decided to use the bathroom, change, and freshen up for dinner a la phone flashlight because I could NOT figure out how to get the lights on in my room. Apparently you have to insert your key card into a port near the door to activate the lights. I was able to figure it out as others had also shared my same struggle. I was thankful that I was not looked upon as the dumb redneck child “Hey y’all, how do you get these fancy lights to come on?”

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So I should begin by explaining that this “science crew” is divided up into a few separate labs. The purpose of this LTER cruise is for scientists of many, specific disciplines to come together to look at the overall health of the Antarctic ecosystem. Most of the scientists here are veterans, who come every year to continue with their research. Much like explaining the cafeteria in the movie Mean Girls, you have your “cliques” or as we like to call them, labs.

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Basically me being thrown into the shuffle this year.

First you have your phytoplankton crew, commonly called the “Ducklings” led by a man with the last name Ducklow. This group works closely with our second group, the oceanographers. Their work is definitely fascinating and makes me wish I would have paid more attention to Mr. Coleman as a super senior in oceanography at A&M. The third group is us, the zooplankton group, or as we’ve been calling ourselves the “Steinburglers” (our principle investigator’s (PI) last name is Steinberg) or “The Copepod Crew” or “The Krillers”. I like to think that we are definitely the most fun. At our first dinner, the question our PI had asked was, “Do you all like to dance?” and I knew immediately that this was probably the lab I belonged in. The fourth group are the birders who come along to study the penguin colonies and spend some time camping out with them to observe their behavior. The final group are the mammal folks, which much like the birders are doing some really cool science. But Katie, you definitely don’t like marine mammals most of you would say. These guys are probably doing the most bad ass form of science on this ship, and have changed my opinion of mammal people (sorry but most of the barbies we’re forced to be with in the MARB program at TAMUG are NOT cut out for this work). So here it is….these guys go out in zodiacs (smaller boats) to shoot at whales with cross bows. WHAT?! These are really special crossbows that actually take out a plug of tissue and blubber that these guys will be using to study populations and individuals on a molecular level. The arrows are designed to float after the plug of tissue has been removed, at which the mammal guys retrieve from the water and store samples from. And in case you’re wondering, you have to be part of the lab to actually shoot one of the whales (I am saddened by this). I have to say that overall this is a VERY fun crew full of knowledgeable people. I am honored to be here and even to be considered a part of this crew because what these folks do is truly amazing. The spirit here is very collaborative. Each group works together for the greater good of the cause and this really makes for an amazing learning environment for the couple of undergrads who were lucky enough to tag along.

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If you want to see exactly what we are doing out here, please watch the documentary about the LTER program and crew that is on Netflix: The Antarctic Edge: 70 degrees South. You’ll get to see all the characters I work with and the type of science we will be conducting.

So back to venturing around in Punta Arenas, the science crew began splitting into labs for dinner and the night out on the town. Our lab chose to eat at a restaurant called “El Broccolino” which actually had no broccoli on the menu.

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Most of the main dishes here are seafood based since the town is built around a small port. I settled on some conger and king crab drizzled in scallop sauce. Conger is a very flaky, white meat fish with a wonderful texture and somewhat sweet taste. Paired with a nice white Chilean wine….I was in heaven. I was also able to eat a thai spiced octopus tentacle which was delicious! My best advice for those visiting another country is to just immerse yourself in the culture and TRY EVERYTHING! I even tried the local drink of choice, a pisco sour (a liquor tasting like tequila and wine mixed with some sweet and sour mix and sometimes a blend of spices). El Broccolino did not make me a fan of this as they spiked the drink with some type of weird spices, like a mix of nutmeg and cayenne pepper. I decided that I’d have to try my second pisco sour somewhere else. After spending a fair amount of time socializing and getting to know one another, we asked for “la cuenta”. It was approximately 10:30 PM when we left. It does not get dark down here until about 11:00 PM and becomes light around 5:30 AM. It is VERY weird getting used to but the increased light really gives you more energy.

Our next stop of the night was to the local watering hole, a real hole in the wall type of bar called “Colonial”. For all my Galveston friends, this place reminds me of Murphy’s except for instead of pizza they serve a dish with French fries, mayonnaise, and hot dog wieners to their drunken clientele. I got my first taste of being ripped off as I did not speak very much Spanish. I order a “Jack Daniels numero siete y Coke” and was given about half a pint glass’ worth of whiskey and a diet coke. For some reason I was charged 19,000 pesos when most drinks are around 4,000-9,000. I really didn’t know any better so I figured I’d just continue on with my buzz and shut up.

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At the stroke of midnight, a short bearded man with a huge smile entered the bar. Much like the redneck version of Cinderella, prince charming and I had a couple more whiskey drinks before he walked me back to my hotel. Punta Arenas is full of huge, stray dogs. These strays are very friendly and after a couple pats, will follow you anywhere. There are many husky, lab, and German shepherd mixes. If I had all the money in the world, I’d open a shelter and possibly adopt all of the Punta Arenas dogs. Unfortunately, since they are strays, there’s no telling what kind of diseases they may actually carry. I was scolded by David as I ran through the streets wanting to love all the dogs. After we parted ways, I settled into bed to ready myself for the busy day that would lie ahead.

Day 3:

The last day in port

After a good night’s sleep, we began our third day of the journey. Our busy schedule included wellness checks, receiving cold weather gear, boarding the ship, and unloading our large shipping container of gear and organizing it into a lab.

A short, ten minute walk from our hotel to the port brought us to the USAP warehouse where we were broken into small groups and led into a room, much interrogation style, and asked a few questions mostly to make sure that we did not have Ebola. After answering questions, a freaking laser beam was pointed at your forehead to make sure that you were not running a fever. I’m not entirely sure how accurate this was since my sweaty forehead was probably hotter than the rest of my body. I was told I was “okay”.

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After making sure everyone had a flu shot (I got mine in the states and not in the creepy warehouse!) we were ushered into a small room for gear pick up. Duffel bags with what was supposed to be our size gear (we mail in a sheet with our measurements) were distributed. Short doesn’t always equal skinny and everything in my bag was an extra small. I had the joy of exchanging everything and being questioned. Sorry folks, my cornbread fed body isn’t squeezing into a pair of bibs (rubber pants with suspenders) that is a size extra small. Talk about a busted can of biscuit dough looking body. I don’t even think I could fit a leg into those damn things.

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Gear was VERY limited due to the fact that the other Antarctic R/V (research vessel) had raided their stocks. I was lucky enough to receive my waterproof deck suit, steel toe deck boots, classic red parka with USAP patch, hiking boots, face mask, goggles, fleece pants, gloves of every type, neck gaiter, and a couple of hats. It was much of a scene of chaos as everyone struggled to get gear in their size, switching between each other, trying on, etc.

Once I arrived on the ship (our luggage and gear was to be delivered) we began unloading a shipping container full of our lab gear. We spent the morning until lunchtime unloading this container which contained our nets, glassware, incubators, and everything we needed to do science with. We made a brisk walk across the town square after leaving the port to a small sandwich shop where we ate maybe pork? sandwiches and returned back to the ship. I am going to hope that this weird meat was in fact pork and not Punta Arenas stray dog or something of the sort (as I’m writing this I’m on day four and still not sick so no worries).

We had a short safety meeting and got some general info about the house rules on the ship. We then broke back into our groups and began setting up our lab. Organizing glassware, tools, and materials into drawers and labeling. At the end of the day we cleaned up and ventured back out on the town for some comida y cervezas (food and beer all of my non Spanish speaking friends).

Round two of pisco sours went much better at a little restaurant called “La Luna”. I had another version of the pisco sour called the pisco calafate. Calfate refers to these tiny little black berries that are crushed and emulsified into a syrup. The sweetness of the calafate berries definitely balanced the drink out and I was very impressed. Food once again was delicious, portions are absolutely loaded with seafood here. I order a spicy baked shrimp (which actually came in more of a soup form) each spoonful of the soupy mixture yielded at least 2-3 shrimp. Once again, I was in heaven.

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La Luna – where we had dinner on the second night. It was a neat little place.

From here we took some time to explore the square which contained a very large statue of Magellan in the center. The bronze statue had age, but its foot was shiny. It is good luck when crossing the Drake Passage (the area of the ocean that divides Antarctica from South American) to actually rub the foot of the statue. Looking at the statue you’ll see that it is an honored tradition that many folks still participate in. It reminded me much of rubbing the anchor at TAMUG before exam day. I grabbed the entire foot of the statue like a maniac with a fetish because having a rough Drake crossing was not something I was ready for yet.

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From the square, we ventured into a very elegant hotel bar where we indulged in a glass or two of “vino blanco”. For all my wine drinking friends, the Chilean white wines are EXCELLENT!

A short walk to Colonial was next. We all debated whether toxifying our livers or sleep was in order. You can probably guess what a bunch of scientists stuck on a ship for 45 days would have picked. There is absolutely no drinking allowed on the ship because A) we are at work and B) it is VERY dangerous. The ship alone is dangerous enough with having to step over door frames, handle the world’s steepest stairs, and navigate through large water tight doors (which can easily take a finger off if they close on it).

After several Jack Daniels y Cokes we all stumbled back to the ship celebrating our last night of freedom. David had met up with us after he got off work and I was glad he was there to baby sit me. I thought it was a wonderful idea to climb into an abandoned shopping cart on the sidewalk and he thought it was an even better idea to push me back to the ship in said cart. So here I was drunkenly rolling through the streets of a small, South American port city with the love of my life in a grocery cart. If you asked me a year ago if I would have participated in such shenanigans, I would have thought you were crazy.

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After stumbling back up into the ship (David, thanks for all of your sober help) we all parted ways into our respective quarters and thus was the end of our last night in port.

Day 4:

Embarkation

After a light snooze David and I were able to venture out on the town for breakfast and a stroll before departing from Punta Arenas. The Unimarc is a super market a few blocks away from the ship. We picked up some last minute items and went to a small empanada shop for breakfast. After strolling back onto the ship they began loading a large crate of what we call “freshies”. This is the code word for fruits and vegetables which people run to the galley for at meal time to enjoy since they only last for the first couple of weeks. Avocadoes go very quickly.

After loading freshies, picking up a few more scientists, and getting some gear on board we were ready to depart. Working in the lab, I could feel the rumble of the main engines beneath my feet and knew that David was hard at work getting us out of port!

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I hope everyone enjoyed the post – in a couple days I’m hoping to get some pictures and stories up about sailing through the Drake Passage and Neumayer Channel. I’ve also had some requests to share what it’s like to be on board! As soon as I clean my bunk up I’d love to share with you guys.

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Our first sunset from the ship as we sailed through the Magellan Straits.

Until next time,

–The Girl With the Big Bass

Airports are the best place to just observe people…

Howdy all! Well the day is finally here, I’m sitting at the gate for my first leg of the flight to South America with some ample time to just write. As a scientist we are trained to be strict with our observations. My eyes have become trained over the years to be fine tuned to my surroundings. So what better to do than people watch at the airport and blog about it? Plus I know how much you’re all enjoying the memes.

So here it is, the seven types of people you commonly see at the airport.

1. The business man.

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This guy just can’t leave his work anywhere. He’s always on the phone yelling at Jerry to not lose those accounts. Then calling Jim to talk passive aggressively about Jerry. You’ll know him when you see him, iPhone at ear, fine Italian leather shoes.  He’ll also cut you in line at the newsstand and then give you a pitying thank you glance.

2. The fashionista.

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With beauty comes sacrifice for this woman and you better watch out because she’ll mow you over in her 4 inch stilettos and Louis Vuitton bag. How is that even comfortable?! Extra bonus points if she comes with a yappy ankle-biter in a purse.

3. The pajama clad bum.

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You’ll know her when you see her. Ugg boots any time of the year, even July in Texas, pajama pants/sweat pants tucked in. Extra bonus if she has a messy bun and a frappuchino. She is the polar opposite of the fashionista.

4. The child leash mom.

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Maybe just one, maybe a whole pack? This mom has her kids under control. Some call her a bad parent, I call her genius. If my future kids are anything like David, they’ll all have leashes.  RIP Harambe.

5. The over packer.

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Alright. I’ll be the first to admit….this is me. The person who has so much crap shoved into their little carry on that they are physically struggling on the outside. You don’t want to know how we feel on the inside as you all judge our super stuffed luggage and our flailing as we cram it into the overhead bin.

6. The no pants party.

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This would also be me if I had buns of steel. Who wants to wear pants? Not me. And if you judge my leggings as pants then you can fight me. Prepare for an ass kicking because I will have full range of motion in my “non-pants”. No pants party in 2020! (I found this meme and couldn’t resist and if you find it offensive you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog)

7. The couple who is super in love.

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They refuse to let go of each others hands, probably play tonsil hockey to everyone’s dismay, and just love each other so. much. Extra bonus if they’re wearing matching shirts or on their honeymoon.

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Well that’s it for now. God Bless me as I leave the best damn state in this union. I’m going to miss the unlimited supply of Whataburger, sweet tea, and Jack Daniels.

–The Girl with the Big Bass

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Me & the fam bam as I left Houston.