23 September 2007

Goodbye Palmer Station

Hi All,

In about a half hour I'm getting on board the Gould and sailing home. I'll be out of email contact for the next 4-5 days. You can follow the boat's progress through the Drake Passage using the cool web utility from an earlier post. I can't wait to see all of my friends and family, and hope that you're all doing well. I have to go now and say goodbye to all of the great friends I've met here.

Take care,

22 September 2007

Winter Comes to a Close

Hi All,

Well, the R/V Laurence M. Gould arrived at Palmer Station on 19 September, and it was a beautiful sight to see as it came around Bonaparte Point. However, while we were tying the ship up to the mooring pins during some
heavy sea surge, not one, not two, but three mooring pins snapped off. As I was assisting with installing the gang plank, the stern pin (the pins are 4" diameter steel embedded into solid rock. It takes ALOT of force to snap one off) snapped off, and we quickly disconnected the gangplank and the bow lines and the LMG went back out to sea while we scrambled to rig up a spare stern pin. The LMG came back to the pier, and we repeated the docking procedure...then again, while we were installing the gang plank, the two bow pins snapped off simultaneously, and we again quickly disconnected the pier lines and the stern lines and the boat set out to sea again. This whole series of events was unheard of, and the bottom line was that the boat was unable to dock at the pier because we couldn't tie it up with only the pier pins.

Plan B was set into motion.

All of the cargo was to be sling loaded onto Zodiac boats and carried to station, then sling loaded onto station with a Skytrack. SO, I went to work with our Boating Coordinator, Ryan, and two Marine Technicians from the LMG. We spent two days loading and unloading vital cargo. Call it Dave's idea of a perfect end of winter day: running around in a Zodiac playing Fed Ex Antarctica. Serious "Only in Antarctica" style activities. Below are some pictures which tell a little bit about my experiences over the past 4 days, which ended tonight with a birthday party for our station doctor, Shawn, and me in the lap of an old friend, Chris Hush, who started in the Antarctic Program the same year I did: 1992. Time flies by. For the last four days I've been performing turnover with my summer counterpart, Phil Spindler, and hauling cargo around by Zodiac. I'm truly exhausted, as many a winter-over can appreciate, but exhilarated at the same time, and I still have to pack up all of my belongings and get ready to get on the boat tomorrow. We leave for Puenta Arenas on 24 September, if all goes according to plan. But the plan is subject to change, as the past four days attest. This may well be my last blog entry from Palmer Station, but I'll update this whole story later when I get back to the States. I hope to see all of my family and friends soon, but I'll miss this place and the new friends that I've made here.

18 September 2007

A Big Orange Boat

Hi All,

Linked here is a cool web utility that we use to track where the R/V Laurence M. Gould is located. Right now they're about 90-110 km from Palmer, but they're sailing through the Gerlache Strait, and there may be some heavy sea ice built up around that area. At any rate the boat was due to arrive here today, but has been postponed till tomorrow morning. It's slow going for them, but they'll be here soon, and some happy but tired Palmer winter-over folks will be sailing home next week.

Oh. And here is a link to the Polartrec website. The teacher on board the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer for the SIMBA cruise, Ms. Sarah Anderson, interviewed me for her ongoing journal while the Palmer was here last week. It sounds like the SIMBA cruise will be able to carry on once the soot is removed and the damage repaired after the devastating fire the boat had.

16 September 2007

A Warm Day

I know this is anecdotal, but it was so hot here today that after I turned the heat off in my bedroom, I still had to open up the window to get some relief. And there I was, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Granted, there were few clouds in the vicinity and the sun was shining directly onto my side of the building, but still...September is on average supposed to be the coldest month of the year. Global climate change, or just a warm day? Looking out my window directly across Arthur Harbor is a piece of land that was once called Norsel Point. It's now been renamed Amsler Island, as the Marrs Glacier has receded so much that its readily apparent that there's an island there. We're melting...

15 September 2007


Someone wrote this on the community whiteboard a couple of days ago, and ain't it funny and the truth. We're all ready to leave Antarctica and head north to warmer climes and see familiar (and perhaps unfamiliar) faces, perhaps spending some time lounging around on a warm beach or hiking through a forest somewhere. We're expecting the LMG to arrive here on the 18th or so, depending on the ice conditions, and then we'll have a week of turnover with the summer folks and then it's buh-bye.

Tonight we had our last Saturday dinner together, and as I do every Saturday evening I hosted "Science Happy Hour". The bar here at Palmer is self-serve, but on Saturday nights I get to play bartender and serve up some adult beverages in the galley, while our chef, Diane, makes some great appetizers. Usually I try to have a theme of some sort for the occasion, so tonight I decided to whip up some Pisco Sours, which is a traditional Chilean beverage consisting of Pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg whites, and bitters. Since we'll be back in Chile in a couple of weeks, it seemed like a good idea, plus we made sushi tonight, and Piscos are a light beverage which went well with it. The sushi was incredibly tasty, and reminded me of my favorite sushi restaurant back in San Luis Obispo, Tsurugi's.
We also have a pool going, to see who can guess what time of day the LMG will call us when it gets close to arrival. Usually they call about an hour or two before arriving in here. I chose 11:00...

11 September 2007

Penguin Extinction

Here is a link to an article I found on MSNBC earlier today. Bill Fraser, the Principal Investigator (PI) interviewed for this story, left Palmer shortly before I arrived in March, but it was his research I was supporting when I was weighing giant petrel chicks last April/May out on Humble Island. When I arrived here there were still some Gentoo and Adelie penguins to be seen, and occasionally they would even come onto station and hang around the pier. But as Dr. Fraser attests, the local penguin population is quickly dying out as a result of global climate change. The Adelie penguins at left, appearing to bow in homage to the skua, may be a thing of the past here at Palmer within eight years.

09 September 2007

A Brief History of The Week

Hi All,
The past few days have been busy, with the normal end of winter frenzy involving cleaning/tasking/reports and trying to tie all the loose ends up, and then, all of the sudden, there's an emergency.

On Tuesday, 9/4, I got up a bit early and went down to BIO to get a cup of joe and write a little bit before work. However, things changed when I opened my email and found out that we were going to be getting an u
nexpected visit from the Nathaniel B. Palmer, which had left Puenta Arenas on 1 September bound for a two month cruise in support of a science project called SIMBA ( a great acronym: Sea Ice Mass Balance in Antarctica).

Enroute to their destination in the vicinity of the Bellinghausen Sea, the expedition took a turn for the worse as there was a fire in one of the science labs. Thankfully, no one was actually in the lab when the fire started, and no injuries occurred as a direct result of the fire or the containment of it. The vessel was going to carry on with the cruise, but needed to stop here at Palmer to refill their SCBA's and get a few things that had been forgotten or had not otherwise made it onto the boat.
When the ship arrived, Arthur Harbor was packed with ice, and as the NBP isn't able to actually dock at our pier because of its draft, the captain tried to break up some of the sea ice so that a Zodiac boat could attempt to make it into the vicinity of our sea water intake, which was not a good choice for a landing area. The picture above shows what they were dealing with, and a rubber Zodiac is not a good vehicle for breaking through ice when it's 6"-9" inches thick. Anyway, eventually the NBP came into Hero Inlet to break up the ice next to the pier, and then the crew released the "Cajun Cruncher", which is a steel-hulled boat that looks like a mini-NBP. After some serious effort, the Cruncher made it to the Palmer pier, and the SCBA's were passed up, along with the first new faces we've seen in 2 months.

I met the Marine Projects Coordinator (MPC) from the vessel, and after hauling all of the SCBA's up to the Dive Shack where the compressor is located, I assisted with the compressor, and then Stian gave me a list of some additional science supplies they would like to get for the boat. That done, there was then alot of conversation about what had happened and what was going to happen in terms of the rest of the voyage. It became apparent that the air quality aboard the boat was not good. So the SIMBA cruise was put on hold as a judgment was made regarding whether or not they should continue. Meantime, the scientists and crew came here on station and we all got to hang out together. On Friday night we had what is known down here as "Cross Town Pizza", and the NBP provided us with fresh lettuce and tomatoes and we all pitched in to make pizzas and dine together. I got to see a few folks who I haven't seen in years, and met a few people who I had heard about but had never actually met. It's a small world here in the USAP, and it's always good to see and meet folks for the first time or see and catch up with people who you haven't seen in years.

Long story short, because of health/safety issues, the SIMBA cruise was postponed and the NBP left yesterday to head back to PA. In such an enclosed air space, where the soot from the fire got into everything/everyone (including all of the servers on board), and the crew is breathing this in all day, the ship needs a thorough cleaning before it can carry on with the
cruise. The cruise will be attenuated, but when it gets to PA a cleaning crew will be waiting to come aboard and get the boat ready to carry on with the expedition.

In a way, the unscheduled arrival of the NBP was a dry run for the scheduled arrival of the Laurence M. Gould on 17 September, that being the boat that will carry me and most of my fellow winter-overs back to Puenta Arenas and the rest of the world. I can't wait.

One last note, we finally decided upon our Official Palmer Station Winter 2007 picture. It's been a good winter.

05 September 2007

All of the Time

I had meant to post alot more than just a title to this post, but it's been a very busy few days, and I'll just start another post. However, thanks to Station Leader Eric Pohlman for this beautiful picture of the last full moon over the station taken from the roof of the GWR building.