Thursday, July 24, 2008

On the Gould

It is amazing to float out at sea, working 12 hour watches, fishing, learning to splice, mend nets and generally support science aboard a boat. Our workdays are broken into two main shifts, noon to midnight and midnight to noon. I have worked both. When there is work to be done, however, it is not uncommon to work 17 hours in a day while at sea. Sleep is pretty much the only activity I regularly take part in, though I have been able to read a fair amount and play a little guitar during breaks in action. We have stopped at Palmer twice now, first to unload cargo and people from Punta Arenas, second to unload fish we caught to be studied by scientists in the Palmer Station labs.

The waves of pancake ice in 5 ft rolling swells look surreal and beautiful. At night time the Gould's lights light them up as we cruise a path through a rolling sea of white. Yesterday we spent a good part of the day at Santa Clause Island, a remote island with a now defunct weather
station, investigating whether or not we could install some equipment on a tower that is rumored to still stand there. We were unable to locate it and the surge was wild, preventing an exploratory party (of which I was part of) from heading out.

Today we are heading back to Palmer Station, after a full night of fishing. We have had a successful haul, dredging up ice fish of all types, a Dumbo octopus as big as my head, eels, squids, rays and a number of other interesting species. We have lost two nets, to the icy drink. One, named Business Time, is a net created by my fellow Marine Technicians, Dan, Jamee and I. It wasn't Business Time that failed however. The 3/8 inch stainless steel cable is what broke, leaving Business Time likely full of fish, in perfect form, at the bottom of the ocean.

That's about all I have to report. We will have a night at Palmer, unload our fish and head back out tomorrow. There will be time to see some loved ones, have a beer and buy a new toothbrush.

High seas off the back deck

Pots (fish traps) with buoys, rope coils, and high-flier with flashing light and radio beacons

Pushing the pots off the back deck

Getting Ready in the MT Shop

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I have stepped aboard the research vessel Laurence M. Gould for the next two months. Currently I am in Punta Arenas, Chile, having my first draft beer and frolicking in the sun. The Gould doesn't have internet, but I will write and post photos as I am able. We get email every day, but my days of bloghopping and Scrabulous are at a hiatus. I will definitely be posting blogs as I come in and out of port as we will be making frequent stops at Palmer Station and to Punta Arenas.

Leaving Palmer was a sad affair, but thankfully I was armed with the knowledge that I will be back in just a couple of weeks. Crossing the Drake Passage was a bit more rough than it was last December. The seas were over 30ft and our ship was pummeled by bergy bits the most of the way. I would hear them slam into the bow and then drag along the bottom. Such seas are hard to work in, and it requires great concentration to complete simple tasks like walking or sleeping. Now we are docked next to the Nathaniel Palmer (of which I got a tour today), another Antarctic research vessel and my old friend the sun hangs proudly overhead. Last night I was able to paint the town up with some great friends, as we said goodbyes and sipped delicious Pisco Sours. We sail south again in 3 days. For now I am busy learning the tricks and trades of my new job and trying to remember how to use money.

Palmerites waving goodbye to us as we sail away.

The sun as it sat today, high in the sky.

Nathaniel Palmer as seen from the Gould

Goodbyes and Liar's Dice