Recreational Boating…Attempt #1

11 Jan

One of the special perks of being at Palmer Station is the opportunity for recreational boating, weather permitting.  Usually the weather is much more cooperative and rec boating happens as early as October.  It was now into November and I still had not been rec boating. 

I was very persistent and eager to be in a zodiac and check out the wildlife on the nearby islands.  One night after work, a few other eager folks (all who’ve been rec boating before) and I decided to give it a try. 

The waters were still pretty chalked full of ice, but I had faith that we could make it through.  We got on all of our gear and headed down to the parking lot, the area where the zodiacs are tied up.

The Parking Lot.

We got the zodiac ready for launching and were very optimistic. But look at all the ice surrounding the area?

And the adventure begins...we pulled out of our parking spot, hopeful and raring to go.

We looked at the horizon hoping we'd get closer and closer to breaking through the packed ice.

It was at this point that some of us (not me of course) started to question our enthusiasm for the journey.  We continued on.


A closer view of the ice we were trying to break through. Not so pretty to have to get through, but still pretty cool to look at.


We continued and could see the edge of the ice more clearly, yet it was still so far away.


We even tried pulling out ice chunks into the boat, one piece at a time. This proved to not be a good idea.


At this point, we’d been trying to break through the ice for approximately 30 minutes and were not even beyond the pier.  Against my wishes, I conceeded and we decided that it wasn’t going to happen tonight.  We turned around and began our long journey back to the parking lot.

Just in case this would never happen again, I made sure to capture this moment where I was sitting in a zodiac in Antarctic waters for the FIRST TIME EVER! I may not have made it far, but I got to this point.

The view from the zodiac of the Bio building, the building I work and live in, and spend about 85% of my day in.

Once we turned around, we saw that in the 30 minutes we'd been out, the ice had already filled in to make our return trip just about as long. Yeah!

Back and sound. We tied up and headed in.

What I soon realized was that the best part of today’s adventure was just about to begin…enjoying some hot chocolate and Bailey’s. 

I might not have made it to Torgeson Island where there are loads of penguins, but now I can say that I am one step closer. 

Stay tuned to find out if and when I make it out…



11 Jan

It’s rather difficult to put into words how Palmerites celebrate holidays here, so I will do so with photos.  In this case, a picture IS really worth 1000 words.

Halloween eve started with cocktails:

Goblin Mimosas and Vampire Blood...a great way to start a meal.

Don’t forget eyeballs (peanut butter balls dipped in white chocolate) to spice up your evening.

We moved onto the Bar/Lounge:

This one wasn't so lucky. He's left on the next ship heading North.

Some highlights of the cast of characters:

The disgustingly cute couple dressed in homemade outfits sewn together out of old float coats.

Kerry, our Admin, as a vibrant and vivacious 70's Go-Go girl with Mark, our Instrument Tech as the Sexy Sax Man (a character from a WHAM YouTube video). They were quite the pair.

Susie, our current doc, playing the role of the 'crazy doc' from a previous season at Palmer.

Judy, as Robin (from Batman and Robin) with Kris, one of our Waste Tech's, dressed up as Hazardous Waste. You can't tell from the back, but he was pretty gross.

Rex and Kim in their costume of a plug and outlet. When they were 'put together' they both lite up. It was great!

Another guy that didn't make it. At this rate, I won't be cooking for too many folks.


This one was great...Luke, one of the grantees, was Ramen Noodles. He even had his own 'spice packet.'

Not a face shot of Zena, another grantee, but it's a good shot of her costume, the Lawrence M. Gould (the vessel that brings us to and from Chile). She made it completely from scratch. Look at that details.

Zee, one of our regulars that's been in the program for many years, dressed up as a construction worker. It's not a far stretch from her normal work clothing.

Michaela, one of our trade apprentices, made this mask out of paper mache. Scarry and cool at the same time.

One of our Comms folks, Ric, played The Sultan for the evening. It's the turquoise sash that makes the outfit.

It was a great night of costumes, dancing, and adult beverages.  Now the holiday season has officially begun.

Take time to smell the roses…

31 Dec

Fortunately and unfortunately, I work and live in the same building.  This means that I have to force myself to leave the building to check out what’s happening in the world around me. 

When I have some free time or when I need to get some air, I walk out to the walkways between the two major building and take a peak. 

On one beautiful October morning, I saw the following:



The view is of Arthur Harbor and the Marr Ice Piedmont.  There was such a beautiful reflection in the water.  I tried to capture it with my camera, but as I have alluded to before, sometimes photos can’t replicate the real view.  It was really magnificent. 

This is part of the amazing scenery I get the pleasure to view when I stop and smell the roses around here.

Not quite like the ‘Nestea Plunge’

31 Dec

For those of you too young to laugh at the title of this post, please continue to read on.  For those of you who giggled at the title, I hope it brings back fond memories of the good ‘ol days when TV wasn’t filled with Reality shows and different versions of Law & Order or CSI episodes.

One of the traditions here at Palmer Station is to take the Polar Plunge every time the LMG pulls away from the station to head north.  This means that you get down to your skivvies and jump into the cold, cold, sea water (it’s usually about 28 degrees F).  Following the plunge, you immediately head to the hot tub to rewarm your parts and pieces that almost broke off from the frosty waters. 

The day the LMG left to head northbound was pretty crappy weather in September and I opted not to jump.  However, there was a very nice day on October 11th.  The temperature was reasonable, relatively speaking, and there was very little wind. 

I got all dolled up (or dolled down really) to my swimsuit and robe and began my mental preparation.  I’d jumped previously at McMurdo and recall how cold and extremely frightening it was, fearful of something nibbling at my toes or becoming so cold so quick that my heart would stop.  Mind over matter is what I kept reminding myself.  I kept thinking about my happy place (a nice, sunny, hot beach).

I reminded myself that it was warmer on this side of the Antarctica and it would be much easier.  Okay…it was all mind over matter at this point.

We all headed to the pier and started this insane ritual. 

One by one, folks jumped in.  Some did so with great enthusiasm.  I stood in amazement and awe.

One of our Recycling Technicians going head first...He's obviously CRAZY!

It's hard to determine if that's excitement or fear on our Science Support Supervisor's face. It's apparent that he's CRAZIER!

Now come on now...Our Boating Coordinator is the CRAZIEST! I mean really, a flip?

Now it was my turn.  I joined my friend Lisa in female solidarity, and we jumped together.

Can you see the snow we jumped off of? Our feetsies were chilled even before jumping.


What you see now is moment my head was completely submerged and I had brisk, ice cold sea water up my nose. It's a moment I will never forget.


After this moment was the mad rush to the rusty ladder.

It's a good thing I took swimming lessons and got there first. It was quite the mad dash. I don't think Lisa was too pleased about it.

So, I made it.  Nothing nibbled at my toes (either that or they were so cold I never even felt it).  And even though I think my heart skipped a few beats, it didn’t completely stop.  It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and invigorating all at once.  And yes, the water was a smidge warmer than I recalled, but once you got out…the wind, as minimal as it was, was a tremendous reminder that we are still in Antarctica and IT’S COLD! 

I scampered to the hot tub, about a five-minute walk (and not too simple with wet feet in flip-flops on snow and rock) to find the rest of the group already toasty and warming their tender, cold parts. 

I immediately hopped in and joined the group.

A much warmer and happier crew post Polar Plunge.

Shortly after, we were greeted by the Adult Beverage Fairy who brought us delicious adult beverages to nicely complement our post plunge hot tubbing experience. 

So with a hot toddy in my hands, I was surrounded by great folks and lots of hot water.  I was very pleased I took the plunge. 

I am not sure if I will continue this ritual EVERY time the LMG pulls away from the dock and heads north, but I am very glad I participated this time. 

Life down here is not too shabby.   

: )

For Every Season; turn, turn, turn…

14 Dec

One of the science groups here at Palmer Station was studying the effects of the changing of the seasons and it’s effects on phytoplankton.  The group in their third year of the project, arrived on station in August and remained here until mid-November collecting and processing data. 

As often as they could, weather being the biggest constraint, they would head out on the open water in a zodiac (an inflatable boat ) and take samples of phytoplankton in a variety of areas.  They brought these samples back to their lab on station and extracted the data they needed. 

During the later half of September and through October, sampling became challenging since the weather blew in all the ice and made it impossible to sample in open water.

As a part of the program down here, we all have to be creative and work within the confines of what we have available.  Without open water, a new method for collecting was created.  Since the sea ice was so packed, it created a safe walkway far enough away from the station to find a location to cut a hole for sampling from below the ice.   They sampled from this hole at several times throughout the day and night.  I was given the opportunity to go out with two of the Principal Investigators (PI’s) for their 9pm sampling.  

The three of us headed out to the hole and brought the required equipment for gathering the samples. 

Joe and Deneb (the PI's of the project) were setting up at the sampling site.

Joe is dropping the next for the first in the series of samples.



Here you can see Joe pulling out the net (hopefully full of phytoplankton).




It was still light a bit after 9pm and arriving at the sampling site.  The darkness set in shortly after we began.

Palmer Station at a winter wonderland.

Next is where I come in to help out.  To gain an accurate sample, Deneb had to drop the net ten times before removing it with the official sample.  I helped her count.

It's hard to tell which time this was or if it was going up or down. To help us from forgetting, we used larger pieces of snow to help us keep track.

After the net was removed from the water and the sample put away appropriately, we cleaned up our sampling area and headed back to station.

On a comical side note:  During another sampling at this same hole, up popped an interesting visitor.

Well, HELLO Mr. Weddell Seal.

You never know what sort of adventures will come your way down here.

It was pretty cool to learn more about the science that’s happening down here AND being able to help, even if it was just to be counting.


For more information about this science project, check out the Antarctic Sun (news about the program) at  The article is posted on November 11 and called Turned On and Off by Peter Rejcek