28 February 2010


Valdivia is a small, German, coastal town surrounded by beautiful rivers. I came in mid-afternoon, stayed a night, and left the next day. For the night, I enjoyed a picnic by Rio Pichoy, or perhaps Rio Callecalle; there are a few rivers cutting through the city. I then enjoyed a quiet night in to prepare for a bike ride the next day.

For the bike ride, I skirted along the main river in order to make it to the coast. The town there was Niebla, with little more than a couple of restaurants and a small dock for ferries. I hopped on one of the ferries that was heading just across the mouth of the river, the first boat I´ve been on since the Melville. Another short bike ride, and lunch on a secluded beach, before I got back on the ferry to jump back across. The ride home was broken by Ceveceria Kunstmann, a delicious German brewery. I then barely made my next bus to Puerto Varas, a lakeside town where I have now been for several days.

That night in Puerto Varas saw little, but the next day would see a TERREMOTO. I started the day with a three egg omelett and a nice bikeride to a town just up the lake. I enjoyed some real nice views of the volcano across the way, and got lucky with a microbrewery open along the way. There was no bar or giftshop as in Ceveceria Kunstmann, instead I bought a bottle of beer from the same gentlemen who were turning the knobs and switching the pipes on the giant kettles.

That night, an earthquake happened. First though, I went to a concert in the backyard of a hostal. I mentioned that I played rugby with some of the bigger guys there, who also happened to play rugby. They adopted me as their Cali Friend, and we listened to this real small local band until late into the night. I went back to my hostel, barely making the 2am curfew (Ellenhaus Hostal policy), and proceeded to sleep through the 5th strongest earthquake in recorded history. Really though, I have been sleeping on the Melville for over a month, so the magnitude 5.3 earthquake (measured locally) was nothing.

The next day, besides a lot of stuff being closed, there was no real sign that an earthquake had happened. There has been no damage in my area, I am not near the coast and in no danger of tsunamis, power got turned on the next morning, essentially everything returned to normal. More out of respect than anything else, the town was closed the next night. I was then forced to instead enjoy a BBQ with a couchsurfing friend as we overlooked the full moon rise over the lake. That was last night, and I am still safe and sound in Puerto Varas.

Somethings Interesting:

--I took a picture of a sign I found funny warning of tsunamis. This was the day before the earthquake hit and a tsunami ravaged the area.

--Ferries in Chile can often break down, take on water, or otherwise be unsafe. I miss the Melville.

--Chilean BBQs are awesome. You throw all the meat on at once, and with the different cooking times, you take them off one at a time, cut them up, and share them with everyone there. We enjoyed beaf ribs, steak, pork ribs, chicken, and some other types of meat.

25 February 2010

Bicicletas, Termas, etc.

Villarica with it´s sister city Pucon are small mountain communities based mainly around the various outdoor activites availiable to visitors. While here, I have taken full advantage of these said activities, and hesistate to leave even after almost a week.

We bussed in the evening of the 18th, with a fellow shipmate awaiting our arrival; the slow moving bars provided us with the opportunity to hear of her adventures around the area, while we filled her in on Pichilemu.

The next day saw terrible weather and amazing biking. We were determined to complete one of the self-guided bike tours our Swiss hostal patrons provided us with, and enjoyed rain-soaked, gravel roads beside misty, green cow pastures. I say "enjoy" because while the second downpour was a little frustrating, the rain really was part of the experience. We made it back to the hostal, and pan-fried some pork, baked some zuchini, and enjoyed some risotto made by the Italian we shared the bike ride with. The night saw a very low key walk around the town where we found a chill poolhall with creepy faceless paintings on the wall.

I soon said goodbye to all Melville Seapersons, and moved 30 minutes east to Pucon. I experienced Las Termas with the Italian, followed by a hike through a protected forest; we realized that this was the wrong order of things, yearning for the hotsprings as we enjoyed homemade banana ice cream from the lady at the forest entrance. That night was the first night I had without anyone from the boat, and the first night I cooked for myself. This cullinary tradition has since been and will continue to be repeated as groceries are excceedingly cheap and hostal kitchens are well provisioned with pots and pans. For the most part, it has been chicken with a small tomatoe salad (in season), and a starch such as mashed potatoes or cold pasta salad.

My remaining days in Pucon have been very relaxing and warm, sharing beers with fellow hostal members at the beach in the afternoon and more homemade dinner at night. One really nice morning, I rode a bike to a gorgeous set of waterfalls. Here, about four or five cascades fall into a single, deep, clear pool; the water temperature, however, prevented all but me from actually swimming. After my 20 second dip, I took a nap above the falls and continued on to have lunch beside a lake. The ride home was very pleasant, downhill the entire way. That night, more relaxing by the beach preceded a small dinner party at the hostal.

The next day, I moved on to Valdivia.

Things I Have Learned:
--A shoe can offer great protection to a bottle of wine, which could possibly burst in one´s backpack.

--Everywhere I go in Chile, there seems to be some sort of festival. Normally this is simply small street markets and music, but there has been fireworks, dangerously cliche carnaval rides, and a contest to see which of Pucon´s restaurants has a wait staff who can carry and serve wine with the most class (at least that is what I interpreted).

--Often, my pocket knife will be the sharpest knife in a hostal kitchen.

22 February 2010

With Melville finale, South America begins

We landed in Valparaiso, Chile, on the 10th, ending the epic trip that was the Melville´s 2010, transect of CLIVAR P6.

I have to honestly say the time spent on the boat was incredible. While during the trip, the days seemed slow and at time monotonous, I look back and can barely believe that we left Tahiti, on January 4th. With a full 12 hours off each day, and only sporadic work during the shift, there is plenty of time to work out, relax, discuss anything and everything with others, and eat delicious food; I read for fun more on the Melville than I did in all of college (remember, Math Major), but still have to finish Aztec. I can honestly say I learned a lot from my time on the Melville, not simply in my future career of oceanography, but in human nature and personal reflection.

Thats not to say I did not want it to end; making port in Valparaiso was anticipated and enjoyed. Among other things missing from the cruise, alcohol was consumed that first night and many times since. Dancing occured, as was some excellent sleep without the constant noise and motion associated with a boat. We all partied in Valparaiso for a few nights, then headed down the coast to Pichilemu, a small surfing town.

We stayed at Hostal Marres, a gorgeous beachfront property owned by Chilean Surf God Diego Medina. While there was some confusion about overbooking the first night, we figured it out; we had a couple of tents, and I slept in mine beneath the same southern-hemi stars I had stared at the whole trip. We woke up within site of Punto Lobos and prospects of some adventures and a discoteca that day and night. The next day was very restful, and included mainly the beach and a delicious barbecue.

People started leaving the next day, but there were still enough of us to enjoy some wine overlooking the break at Punto Lobos during sunset. We had one more night in Pichilemu, again with dinner and drink in the main town. The next day, I said goodbye to most from the ship, and made my way south to Villarica. I am still here now.

Things I´ve learned:

--Tons of Spanish. Most importantly, ¨Mas lente, por favor¨ (slower, please). Chileans speak very quickly.

--As shipmates, we enjoyed eachother´s company sober. Once off the boat, we realized that we are all real fun people to party with as well.

--In the USA, we use foreign language to make businesses and such sound exotic. Down here, English is often used (i.e. Sports House). While this should not shock me, I simply don´t think of English as exotic.

11 February 2010

Student Writeup

As a student watchstander on this cruise, I was required to make a writeup about my experience. Enjoy.

My name is Sam Wilson and I am a recent graduate from UCLA with a degree in Math/Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. In order to postpone any real world obligations while gaining real world experience in my desired field of Oceanography, I jumped at the opportunity to be a CTD Watchstander onboard the R/V Melville during CLIVAR P6, Leg 2. I arrived in Tahiti on New Year’s, 2010, wide-eyed and excited for the adventure that was before me.

After the first few awkward days of adjusting to life at sea and becoming acquainted with the console, I realized both the simplicity and importance of my job. As console operators, we control when the CTD goes into the water, converse with the winch operators regarding package speeds and depths , remotely trip Niskin Bottles on the up-cast of the package, and command samplers during the Rosette Dance. It was soon understood that not only was it important to complete these tasks, we needed to complete these tasks quickly; a five or ten minute loss on each cast could mean entire days when compounded. As a team, the console operators performed admirably and had cast times comparable and even quicker than CLIVAR averages; we destroyed Leg 1 cast times.

I have gained an immense amount of experience and learned many things about myself and the field of observational oceanography. One of the greatest accomplishments I will take away from this cruise is the fact that I spent a full 36 days on a boat. I was able to eat, work, read, write, and play on a boat enough to keep myself entertained, all without getting seasick or going insane. I learned how to sample from Niskin Bottles, interpret water column profiles, and run taglines while deploying and recovering. I learned to use lifejackets to tilt my bunk to prevent rolling with the ship. I learned that research vessels are fully stocked with provisions enough to satiate even my hunger. I was able to make some great friends in the field of Marine Sciences who I will travel around Chile with and keep in contact with later. Most of all, however, I reaffirmed that I love the ocean and have picked the correct field for me.

08 February 2010

Free time

Free Time

As I’ve said before, the R/V Melville is extremely kush, providing ample opportunity to waste time, and there is plenty of time that needs wasting. With 12 hours off every day, food taken care of, and five or so hours of transit time during my shift, I have done everything in my power not to go insane.

This includes, continuing to work on my bubble paper, applications, movies, reading, card games, ping pong, foosball, cribbage, movies, board games, solitaire, arts and crafts, work out, etc.

Also, there is a hot tub on board. A hot tub!! They use salt water to cool the engines and the engineer decided to put that water to good use (rather than just dump it over board). The salt water hot tub on board this ship is fully heat controlled, with bubbles, clothing optional. I go out there all times during the day and night, to watch the sunset/sunrise, to stargaze, to recover from a workout, to read, to smoke cigars, or whatevs. It has made the boat trip infinitely more enjoyable.

Anyways, to sum up, here are some facts which encapsulate how I spend my time.

Movies watched: 16ish (including Casablanca, Star Trek, Milk, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop)

Books Read: 2 ½ (remember, I was a Math Major and can barely read)
--Catch 22, Children of the Mind, and currently on Aztec

Green Flashes during Sunset: 8 (one was even PURPLE)

Green Flashes during Sunrise: 1

Card games learned: Upwards of 9

Hot Tub Record: 2 ½ hours straight, averaging over an hour a day

Sleeping record: 4 hours straight. I need uninterrupted sleep.

Rowing record: 30 minutes, 7500 meters. This is the only cardio available, really.

Worse foosball defeat: 2-10. I am truly terrible at this game.

Whales Spotted: 1 blue whale. Check that off the bucket list.