by Emelia DeForce
Jan 10, 2013
66°15.0S X 67°21.9W
West of the Antarctic Peninsula
I have to pause for a minute to pay homage to and tell you about the humbling power of Palmer Station. There are only about 30 people that live there in the summer months (Sept-April) but all of them are responsible for running not only a station, but a home. There are cooks, seamstresses, metal workers, electricians, doctors, scientists, etc. many of them acting in multiple roles on a daily basis. Each individual plays an integral part to make the station a success even if it means scrubbing someone else’s bathroom floor after lunch.
During turnaround, I was invited on a “boondoggle”, or mini outdoor excursion. Before any boating activities, onemust be prepped for a turn of events, we are in fact in Antarctica where extreme weather can change at the drop of a hat. All the necessities for survival are brought along, clothing, waterproof gear, food, water, radios, oh, and don’t forget to sign out on the white board before you go, the station wants to keep track of everyone. There is a strategic safety plan set in place including 60 gal barrels placed throughout a 5 mile radius stuffed with survival gear just in case...
ix of us piled in to the zodiac and pushed through ice chunks back and forth to Torgerson Island where a colony of Adelie penguins are diminishing due to the changing environment. The short of it is that loss of sea ice = loss of Antarctic krill, the principle food source for the penguins. On the way, we passed the over-turned Bahía Paraíso, an Argentine Naval supply ship that sunk in 1989 spilling diesel fuel. You can only see the very bottom of the hull. It totally looks like a whale surfacing from far away
We pulled up to Torgerson and spent about 2 hours checking out the Adelies. There are a few Chinstrap and Gentoo (picture left) penguins lingering about the Adelie colony as well. Basically, I followed them from the water where they jump in and out with what appears to be playful glee to their nests full of chicks where mom or dad are keenly watching over their babies who are bustled underneath them. The chatter amongst them reminds me of neighbors with too much time on their hands starting to call out territory wars. It seems that even this far South, things don’t change. This has got to be one of the coolest places on earth, penguin watching in Antarctica, yes!
Next we toured the local icebergs in the zodiac. These monstrous bohemians are just that, different and unique, no two alike. As you get closer, you can see the intricate markings on each of them representing thousands of years of ice formation. It is simple to sense which ones have recently split off the glacier because of the jagged edged ice opposed to smooth curves that seawater has slowly leveled. I just happened to be looking at the glacier about a nautical mile away when boom! I saw a calving of the ice (chunks breaking off into the sea from the glacier). I thought “am I in a National Geographic film?”
Since then, we have left Palmer Station for our 28-day expedition on the ARSV Laurence M. Gould. The hardcore science has begun. I am still getting used to my shift of 4am-4pm, not to mention that I go to sleep when the sun seems to be at it’s brightest. What really has me going right now is all the new scientific knowledge I am sucking up, it’s a different world down here, time to start thinking in new ways.