Friday, April 25, 2008

Days Gone By

The Gould has gone with almost all summer folks. It is a sad turn of events, though brings our station population down to 26. I have my own room for the time being and lines at the dish washing station are manageable. Indeed, it is the good life. This coming weekend is a two day weekend for us. This comes at a much needed time, before the Gould returns for a 21 day stay. They will be in and out of port, fishing and running experiments along the peninsula.

The divers have begun diving at night, which keeps the late hours interesting. It is surreal to see them motoring around our inlet in the darkness, flashing their lights, in competition with stars and moon. Both of which have been in full form these past few nights.

On Earth Day, the divers along with 6 or 7 volunteers, retrieved 300 lbs of trash from the sea floor around station. I was out on a Boating II class, and unable to help out, but it was a pretty cool event, in honor of a great day. Also, thanks to an unexpected arrival of the sun we were all given 2 hours "safety break" to go boating. Our first wave took off to Hermit Island for some hiking and cruising around Cormorant Island and the glacier. We saw a variety of seals and birds. Cormorants, penguins, Giant Petrels. On the second wave, a group of us went to Humble Island where Station Manager Brett and Doctor Will allowed us (permit holders) to watch them weigh Giant Petrel chicks. They weren't quite as small and cuddly as you might imagine but they are prehistoric looking animals. The chicks weighed in over 12 lbs with wing spans of 5 ft and more. Oddly enough, as the birders approach the birds to pick them up and shove them in a bag, they don't struggle much at all. The parents as well, flutter away, leaving their chick to deal with the molestation on it's own terms. Thankfully the birders are careful, trained and respectful and no harm is done to the animal. Indeed the measurements gleaned are used to protect the species. After Humble Island we cruised around Loudwater Cove to enjoy the sights and sounds of the glacier. Carla, our IT guru and OSAR member expertly navigated us around rock and ice and we were home in time for dinner. I'll get some photos of this up soon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Christine Island

Here are some shots of OSAR team members, Carla, Jordan, Payot, Anthony and myself on our way to Christine Island for a SAR cache changeout. There are 11 emergency caches, three barrels each, spread around our boating area and beyond. Each year they are retrieved, batteries replaced, food checked, stoves tested and restocked with freshly checked gear. These caches are used infrequently, though offer a tent and enough sleeping bags, water and food for 5 people to survive for 8 days. A few science groups have used them when the weather has turned, but none since I have arrived. Wind is our main worry here. As a rule, no boating happens in wind over 20 knots. As I write this the wind is blowing at a steady 38 knots (44 mph) with gusts at over 50 knots. It is wild. White caps explode and shower off sideways onto shore as the wind rattles everything not tied down.

In the photos below we are surrounded by brash ice, which is ice that has calved off the glacier in our back yard. It can make going pretty slow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Patching Zodiacs. If there is there another activity that is as thrilling, I have yet to discover it. The boats here are often put through heaven and hell and it takes more than a little TLC to help them live long and healthy lives. Some of our Zodiacs have been cruising these waters for more than 16 years. They can look like a shot-gun fire of patches on the bottom, but they hold air. And they hold secrets and history.

Here are a few patching photos. As well as the bottom of Z-boat, my favorite of all our Zodiacs.

The boats here are constantly landing on rocky shores. Also, brash and bar ice can puncture the Zodiac skin. Then there is the general chemistry, as the boats freeze and thaw throughout the year. We currently have a mere four boats on the water. The dive boat, OSAR boat, Birder boat and a boat for recreation. The short days and limited water time gives me a chance to get the boats into the boathouse.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fire and OSAR

Fire Training

Ocean Search and Rescue (OSAR) cache changeout and towing

Bustling Days

Things here at Palmer are bustling these days. Turnover of station to the winter crew has everyone in the throes of trainings; Fire Team, OSAR, Fuel Spill response, station protocol and job specific training. Since there are so few people here, everyone has a lot of outside duties such as fire fighting, working at the store, cleaning bathrooms. The list goes on.

The days are getting shorter and the brash ice has been thick and heavy the past few days. The summer folks are abuzz with travel plans and the winter crew is finding their favorite chairs, movie nights and forming relationships. We have been having a lot of Ocean Search and Rescue exercises on the water during the work day so I have tried to take some time in the back yard. The station is situated at the foot of a glacier and hikes up it offer great views as well as a chance to get away from the small universe that contains our daily lives.

Anyone interested in seeing a cool video of our glacier calving click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

After All

It's Easter Sunday. Some folks made Easter food, but I accidentally missed it. That's a funny thing about living here. When you have only one day off it becomes a struggle to fit things in. I find myself saying things like "I might be able to meet for a game of poker. I have to watch cartoons at ten and then am taking a sauna at noon. Maybe after that, before I play Settlers of Catan, but after I decorate cookies. Oh and I was going to have Bailey's and coffee and play frisbee sometime in there." Ridiculous. It's the end of March and time is a slippery thing. Last night was a coworker's 50th birthday party, which was a hoot. It turns out we went to the same Junior High and High School. We even had some of the same teachers. Amazing how small the world can become. Really not much new is happening that I haven't already mentioned. Here are a few photos, however.