Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the Gould, Suprisingly

As the title suggests, I am on board the Laurence M. Gould again. A surprising turn of events unfolded today. The primary one being a medical emergency which had the LMG pull into port for 2 hours, load everyone who was supposed to leave on September 5 with all their luggage, samples, etc. The last few days have been involved and intense. Yesterday morning we switched to 24 hour operations, making for extremely long days for some of us. Ken, Lily and I switched to 4 hour shifts, mine after the normal work day, was 4am to 8am and every eight hours afterwards. Lights were set up on the pier and the rest of station volunteered for 2 hour time slots throughout the night and day. We worked hard to get the fishing line up and as of this afternoon were able to remove about 120 feet of it. When the medical emergency arose I, along with a number of other Palmerites, was sent to my room and told to be ready to board the Gould in a matter of hours. The fishing line still prevents the LMG from tying up to the pier so we walked slowly across the sea ice, with our bags in hand. A Zodiac was dragged along the ice to transport cargo, and now we are just about to embark across the Drake. Two options seem to be on the table. A stop at King George Island where the patient can be flown via airplane to a hospital. Or, since the situation is far from dire presently, a speedy return to Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina.

That's the scoop. It has been an intense few days, and walking onto the Gould as a Marine Technician to work with a crew I haven't worked with yet is a little daunting. Though my spirits are high with a bit of an adventure under my belt and plenty of great things to look forward to. I loved my time at Palmer. I will have to figure out some new arrangements for my travel plans. Primarily what to do with the extra two weeks I will have in Chile. Also, the great and general unknown afterwards.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Line Locked

I am still at Palmer Station. The Gould arrived here a week ago to try and tie up, but was prevented by a long line, laid underwater starting at our pier and stretching 300 meters towards Janus Island. Before the line could be removed, sea ice moved in and covered the line. Due to the lowest temperatures of the year and a nearly constant wind from the west, the line is proving extremely difficult to recover. The Gould cannot drive over the line and our cargo operations have been thrilling and difficult. Click here for Carla's fantastic account of our Shackleton style cargo operation, which involved the Gould breaking ice, firing a rope gun ($1000 a shot!) and setting up a pulley system to transfer people and cargo from ship to shore.
Photo courtesy of PQ.

Photo courtesy of Mayor Waslo.

Instead of being called back to the Gould I have been left at Palmer station to help figure out a way to remove the line from underneath the sea ice, which is littered with giant bergy bits and over 5 feet thick in areas. The following video will give you a quick idea as to the forces of nature we are grappling with. The video was taken at the beginning of our first day breaking a crack to pull up the line. As the days have progressed, we have made progress, improved our technique vastly and had many humbling moments.

Lily (the current Boating Coordinator) and I scouting cracks.

The sea ice makes us feel small.
These two photos are courtesy of Wally.

For now, we work on the problem day and night. Many on station have put in long hours in order to help Palmer Station receive the Gould, which should be arriving tomorrow with a good amount of cargo, fish and people.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ice Ice

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Instead of crossing the Drake for a fourth and fifth time, I finagled a stay Palmer as the Gould set north to do a round trip to and from Punta Arenas. Since cargo was light and science was staying on station, it was decided that my time would be better spent working on the Gould Zodiacs in the Palmer boathouse. It is the good life, and Lily, the current Boating Coordinator has been extremely generous with her space.

This week an ice storm rolled in covering our boats with 3 inches of ice. Among various Palmer related activities, I have been working steadily in the Boathouse on getting two new Zodiacs up and ready for their lives in Antarctica. The Gould currently sits in Arthur Harbor after arriving this morning with my new crew. It sits, trapped by a thin, nylon fishing line sunk across hero inlet 5 days ago. Unfortunately the sea ice has been so thick this past week, the scientists who hoped to catch and study the fish have been unable to retrieve their line. This nylon line can wreak havoc on the Gould if it were to get sucked up into it's engines, so until we can retrieve the line, or until some other plan is formed we wait for the wind to blow the ice away from station.The Laurence M. Gould as it sat this morning.
Photo courtesy of Carla Appel.