From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn, Day 9
January 25, 2012; Isla Darwin, Caleta Virginia, approximately 54º57’S, 70º10’W
Today is the last field day before we return to Punta Arenas for a few days in order to process all of the specimens that we have collected in these first nine days. We are currently anchored at Isla Darwin, but we will be setting off shortly for the long trek home, about 24-hours of travel.
I have mixed feelings about returning to port. On the one hand I look forward to a couple of nights of uninterrupted sleep. I am also hoping for a chance for my hands to heal from all the small cuts and puncture wounds inflicted by the thorny and ubiquitous barberry (locally known as calafate) and the spiny-tipped leaves of a common ericad shrub (Gaultheria). On the other hand there is no place on Earth I’d rather be doing fieldwork.
Also, when I got back on the ship, Ricardo told me he probably will be leaving the trip when we return to Punta Arenas because he damaged his knee yesterday and fears that it needs surgery. Apparently it was those slimy hornworts that caused him to slip and twist his knee. We will miss his cheery attitude, and my goal of no injuries has now been dashed. At another extreme, this morning I finally lost my patience with one of our group and was forced to say something about their attitude. This is the part of being the leader that I dislike the most. Oh well, I just hope I don’t need to be the parent again!
But most importantly, I learned (or re-learned) a valuable lesson today. We were docked for the night last night at Isla Cook, and I decided that it would be nice to briefly go ashore and make a quick collection on that island, since we have no collections from there. I gave us only an hour on Isla Cook before we would be back on ship and motoring toward Isla Darwin; I assumed more or less that Isla Cook would not be all that special.
I was the last ashore and only had 45 minutes to collect, during which I found a number of nice things, but nothing special. When I realized I only had five minutes left until pick-up time, I scurried down the steep slope, mostly on my butt, and soon found there was no beach below me.
I was forced to parallel the shore for awhile, and while doing so, I saw–out of the corner of my eye–a moss growing under a hollowed trunk of a large tree. I grabbed a piece as I ran past, but as soon as I glanced at it, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was a moss that we only have a single other collection of from the flora area (it was collected by Juan last year). I looked at it again and verified the determination (Rhizogonium), took another handful, and continued on.
It was then that I realized that I had mistakenly written off a locality, despite having no previous knowledge of it. I hope I can remember this lesson on the second half of the trip. As it turns out, I didn’t find much on Isla Darwin, and so now it seems that Captain Cook, rather than Charles Darwin is looking over us!
Bill Buck’s Previous Reports From the Field: