R/V Point Sur goes to Antartica

By Tara Pastuszek (9 June 2016)

R/V Point Sur in Antarctica. Photo by Reny Tyson

During the Austral Summer of 2013, the R/V Point Sur sailed to Antarctica and spent two months supporting operations while based at Palmer Research Station. Participating in this historic voyage was a privilege and I feel I can speak for the entire crew in expressing the pride of getting to see her, the Sur, in one of the most majestic places on earth.

R/V Point Sur was built in 1980, is 135 feet in length, beam of 32 feet, has a draft of 9 feet, displacement tonnage of 539 tons, was owned by the NSF and operated by MLML as part of the UNOLS academic fleet until 2015.

R/V Point Sur tied up next to the Laurence M. Gould. Photo by Scott Hansen.

To make the trip a large amount of equipment was added (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, Marine Sanitation Device, Oily Water Separator, Thermal Imaging Camera, water purification system, ice gear), then much planning (risk management plan, surveys of the vessel, insurance, weather/ice forecasting, and foreign port and Palmer provisioning).

The transit from Moss Landing, California to Punta Arenas, Chile.

The transit south to Punta Arenas, Chile:

  • Depart MLML on 28 November 2012
  • 8,600 nautical miles
  • 38 days
  • 31,000 gallons of fuel used
  • Two refueling stops
  • 1 Christmas tree

Now you have to cross the infamous Drake Passage, considered one of the most dangerous patches of water in the world to get to Palmer Station, Antarctica.

Drakes Passage


Typical Drake Passage crossing:

Typical Drakes Passage crossing


The R/V Point Sur crossing (4 days):

Point Sur corssing Drakes Passage


The R/V Point Sur supported NSF-sponsored research regarding:

  • Geology
  • Marine mammals
  • Krill and zooplankton
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Penguins
  • Sub-tidal mooring recovery (Chile)
  • Water sampling (Mexico)


Here are some Antarctica flashbacks from a cook’s perspective:

Antarctic krill. Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Though I cannot explain much about the krill density study that was conducted on the vessel, I can say that the soon-to-be-famous Creole krill cake was mighty tasty!

Creole krill cake. Photo by Tara Pastuszek (notice the small black dots that are krill eyes)

We throw the term ice water around so easily on land. When you spend day after day looking at ice and water combined with ever-changing light, the sheer beauty of it all eludes the camera.

Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Penguins are adorable.

Gentoo Penguin feeding chick. Photo by Scott Hansen

Penguins really stink.

Chinstrap Penguin colony. Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Taking a break in the middle of your work day to hang out near a penguin colony is so much fun it makes it easy to tolerate the smell.

Penguins on beach with R/V Point Sur in background. Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Point Sur crew at a penguin colony.

I will probably always say that a minke whale is the most gorgeous and graceful creature I have ever witnessed in motion.

Minke whale. Photo by Scott Hansen
Minke whale. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

I will never forget what a whale’s breathe smells like. Thank you to Ari Friedlaender and the whole team for my boat ride and a whale-watching trip like no other! It was my first, and hopefully not my last, Cetacean Vacation!

Breaching humpback whale. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

The crew of the Point Sur made sure to leave a mark and a bit of Moss Landing at Palmer Station.

R/V Point Sur arrow with names of crew.
Moss Landing arrow sign at Palmer Station.

There are so many people who were involved with the planning, preparation and execution of this journey. The support of the MLML community was felt and appreciated by the whole crew and never let it be said that MLML does not throw a great welcome home party!

MLML celebrates the return of the R/V Point Sur from Antarctica.

The logistics were daunting at times. Those of you who know Stewart Lamerdin know that he really needed this Chilean beer as he prepared to send the Sur to cross the Drake. Thank you, Stewart, for your tireless effort which made this whole journey a reality.

Stewart Lamerdin, MLML Marine Superintendent, obtaining Chilean liquid courage before sending the R/V Point Sur across the Drake Passage.

Thank you to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories for giving me the opportunity to play in your world. I was able to pursue my own passion and learn so much from the people around me, each and every day. This made my almost six years with you a truly rewarding and rich experience. Happy Anniversary.

Thank you to the crew (and relief crew!) I was privileged to sail with and for our safe return.

Closing with one more picture and the names that belong to those beaming faces.

Pt Sur crew in front of vessel in Palmer

Crew of the R/V Point Sur at Palmer Station:

Back row:

A/B, Scott Hansen

2nd Mate, Leah Harman

Chief Engineer, Barrett Carpenter

Marine Technician, Stian Alesandrini

A/B, Alex Wick

Assistant Engineer, Jack Lavariega


Lower row:

Chief Mate/Ice Advisor, Capt. Diego Mello

Chief Steward/Chef, Tara Pastuszek

A/B, Amy Biddle

Captain Rick Verlini


Fun Facts:

  • 19,906 total nautical miles sailed
  • 81,212 gallons of diesel consumed
  • 2,274 pounds of meat cooked and eaten
  • 59,346 gallons of freshwater used
  • 6 foreign ports visited
  • 2,120 eggs consumed
  • 11 pilots sailed aboard the R/V Point Sur to assist with navigation
  • 146 pounds of coffee brewed
  • 45 scientists worked aboard the vessel
  • Public outreach: Daisy Ingraham Elementary School (Westbrook CT), Leesburg Elementary School (Leesburg, FL), Toro Park Elementary School (Salinas, CA)
  • 14,000 hits on the Point Sur blog site during the trip