This is what Antarctica was like more than 35 million years ago in the Eocene: no ice sheet and a vegetation of tree ferns, Nothofagus trees and shrubs. This is the image that emerges from previous Antarctic drill holes and samples that recovered pollen and spores from the Eocene. Our mission is to find out when and why it changed.
This is a photo from the Wellington botanical garden. New Zealand and Antarctica were once side by side within a supercontinent called Gondwana before tectonic processes sent New Zealand further North. New Zealand has been isolated as a set of islands for a long time and still carries some of that Gondwana flora and fauna.
The science party had the afternoon off yesterday to spend the last couple of hours on shore before departure. We are departing in half an hour as the tide rises. We are so full of fuel that the ship is deep in the water and the Captain did not want to take any chances getting out of port. The weather forecast is still projecting bad weather with up to 45 knot wind gusts for tomorrow as we follow the coast of New Zealand's South Island southward.