29 July 2007

Palmer Station Weather

First I have to say that the weather here at Palmer this winter has been so mild (in comparison to other stations I've worked at) that it never really felt like there was much to write about. We've had maybe two "major" storm events so far this winter, and then this morning when I woke up I could hear the wind howling outside, and realized that I wouldn't be going boating today. Sure enough, we've got winds gusting up to about 50 MPH (back in April we had gusts up to 90 MPH!) and lots of snow. I was almost knocked to the ground by the wind while walking from my dorm to the BIO building. No boating today, as the winds need to be <20 MPH.

Temperatures here in the winter are almost always below freezing (though currently it's a balmy 0.5C) but nothing too intolerable in comparison to Pole or McMurdo. Even when taking windchill into account I haven't experienced anything here like some of the temperatures at those stations, where it can get mind-numbingly and dangerously COLD. Mother Nature is serious trying to kill you at Pole, and without lots of warm layers and an abundance of caution, frostnip or bite is always waiting for you. Here, the greatest cold danger is falling out of one of the Zodiac boats into the sea, where the water temperature is actually slightly below freezing, and it feels like you're being stabbed with one million tiny knives. Panic quickly sets in, and you can't get out of the water fast enough.

One fact about Palmer Station and the Antarctic Peninsula in general is that the temperature has risen 3C over the last fifty years as a consequence of global climate change. The peninsula is truly becoming the "banana belt" of the continent. Here is a link to a good article about what's happening to the Marrs Piedmont glacier directly behind Palmer as a result of the increase in average yearly temperatures. As I look out of my office window some days to witness the glacier calving, I can't help but wonder if there will be any of it left in 100 years. Or if humanity will still be in Antarctica.

27 July 2007


Two months to the day, I've finally got this video put together. The goodwill trip from Palmer Station to the Ukrainian station Vernadsky. I have few skills of video composition or editing, the beauty and/or pain of which was doubly compounded considering that I:

A: Borrowed a friend's video camera. (Technical difficulties. Upload was horrific.)

B: Asked Dave Wiemer to be my cinematographer. (He's got a good eye, and he's a great actor. He was supposed to be in my movie SAFETY SLAPDOWN: A Rage of Safety, but he's in Alaska now, manicuring his property in preparation for Sara's arrival and their eventual wedding. I'd better get an invite Weimermuns!).

C: Thought about the context of the trip and actually wrote a speech for it. Which got translated into Ukrainian.

This video is not for everyone.


As is this:

And this. Part II of the Vernadsky Trip. Teh Race to the Laurence M. Gould:

24 July 2007

Time Capsule

Hi All,
Just a quick update this morning. The pipefitters here had to dig a meter deep trench through the permafrost near the boathouse to lay in some new piping, and someone had the great idea to place a time capsule in the trench to be opened sometime in the next 50 years. We took pictures of everyone in their work areas and of all the buildings here to be placed in the capsule, along with some other odds and ends (including a vial of someone's blood...not mine). Anyway, here's a slideshow, and the pics are also posted full-size on Picasa. Thanks to Phil Troska for taking all of the photos.

21 July 2007

13 July 2007

Fire Drill and Octopus Rescue Team

Today we had our monthly fire drill. Each month our station doctor, Shawn, comes up with a different scenario for the drill, and usually takes us by surprise. I'm a first responder, so I basically run to the alarm panel when the alarm sounds, see where the fire is located, grab an extinguisher, and run to the fire. I report to the Fire Marshall, Rob, once I get to the fire, and let him know the status. If I can safely put out the fire, I do so, but if not, I call back to Rob and let him know that the SCBA Team needs to be called in, and then I assist with whatever else needs to be done, like getting the portable fire extinguishers ready, assisting with the fire hoses, etc. At 1300 today the alarm sounded and I rushed to the panel, which indicated that the sauna building was on fire. I ran to the sauna, and Shawn informed me that the building was engulfed in flames. I radioed Rob to let him know that I was backing off, and that the SCBA team was needed. The SCBA Team arrived (Karen and Red are pictured above), and Rob and Shawn decided that since our hot tub was in need of draining and cleaning, we would use a portable pump to drain it through our fire hose. The drill went well, although if the sauna had been on fire it would have been completely destroyed, and our only real mission would have been to protect the other nearby buildings.

After the drill, Shawn and I cleaned out the jacuzzi, and when we went back into the aquarium later to put all of the cleaning stuff away, Phil, our electrician, mentioned to me that one of the four octopi was missing from one of the tourist tanks. After looking around for it, I came to the conclusion that it must've crawled out and went down the floor drain (octopi are very smart, and have been known to climb from tank to tank looking for food). Then I noticed that one of the anemones in the tank looked much fatter than it did in the early morning. The Trauma Team (myself and Shawn) went to work, and retrieved the largest octopus from the Belly of the Anemon
e using a pair of forceps and a bit of traction. The little fella had a very unlucky Friday the 13th, and I don't know if it will survive, but it's respirating and doesn't look much different than normal.

Oh. Did I mention that I shaved my head yesterday?

10 July 2007

Training: GSAR

It was nice this morning to go for a walk on the glacier and practice a bit of search and rescue. First we had a refresher where we practiced some knot tying in the lounge (figure eights, rewound eights, and prussic knots,) and then we all walked up to the glacier to practice together. I wore snowshoes for the very first time, instead of boots and crampons. The snowshoes are much more comfortable, if a bit awkward, but I think I may have to switch to them from now on. The glacier is pretty torn up lately, and the ice is very brittle, so it can get slippery without some good foot wear. We went up the glacier to practice a 3:1 Z-Pulley system which is used to pull victims out of crevasses. Pictured below (l-r) are Phil, Lana, Red, Karen, and Dan traipsing along with a consummate 3:1 Z-Pulley system which we practiced a couple of times before we achieved perfection in Ground Search and Rescue.

09 July 2007

Nacreous Clouds at Dawn

I was sitting at my desk this morning doing some routine report writing when I looked out my window and saw this: Nacreous clouds forming in the sky over the Marrs glacier. The colors can be as vivid as the underside of an abalone shell, and are constantly shifting with the wind. It's 0900 here right now, and the sun is still below the horizon. However, a little before 1300 this afternoon, the sun peeked out over the glacier for the first time in quite awhile. In the foreground is Arthur Harbor and our sea water intake building, which house all of the pumps which provide sea water for our reverse osmosis unit. We gain about 4-6 minutes of sunlight everyday, but this is the first time we've actually been able to see the sun since May.

04 July 2007

4th of July

"Happy Birthday America!"
--message just received here at Palmer via radio from Base Commander Victor at Vernadsky Station.

We're celebrating our country's birth today with a BBQ in the garage. We don't have any fireworks here, but who needs them
when we've got a fire in the sky this morning. Maybe I'll try to force Eric, our Station Manager, to give a speech. Hope everyone is enjoying the day. I'll post some pictures later of our festivities. Oh, and I've added our newly fixed Palmer Station webcam to the links list. Check it out.