William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. For the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America, an area rich in moss species.
January 6, 2014; Punta Arenas, Chile; 53.1667° S, 70.9333° W
Statue of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan – Punta Arenas, Chile
After several years of shuttling to and from the far end of South America, this is to be our final expedition as part of this project to inventory the mosses and liverworts of the Cape Horn Archipelago. I have mixed emotions. Although I am sad to see the fieldwork come to a conclusion and, as a consequence, never again see this majestic landscape, at the same time I won’t miss the long, often exhausting flights down to the southern end of the world.
My flight out of New York was scheduled for the morning of Friday, January 3. Coincidentally, this was the day after a major winter storm had dumped eight inches (15 cm) of snow on the city, letting up only a few hours prior to my departure.
In contrast, the surrounding hillsides shone brown as my plane descended onto the airstrip in Santiago, Chile. It was obviously summer. Only a slender silver thread of water made its way along the valley bottoms, and I was glad that I found myself headed to a more verdant destination. Once inside the airport, I had expected to meet my Chilean counterpart, Juan Larraín, but he failed to appear by the time my connecting flight to Punta Arenas was ready to depart. The flight to Punta Arenas usually stops in Puerto Montt. While on the ground there, I glanced up from my reading to see if I could catch Juan among the boarding passengers, but to no avail. However, after the plane was in the air again, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see the person I was looking for. Juan had boarded in Puerto Montt after all. One more piece of the puzzle fell into place.
read more »