Monday, April 28, 2008

Earth Day Dive

In honor of Earth Day last week, 4 divers carried on an annual tradition at Palmer Station of doing a cleanup dive around our pier. While they were under the water searching for things that didn't belong, a group of volunteers waited on the pier for their signal to haul up the netted bags of trash and to replace the full bag with an empty one. Of course, since this took some time, several snowball fights ensued. Overall, though, over 300 pounds of trash was pulled up from the sea and as many sea creatures as we could find were thrown back in.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

GSAR and Flag Drilling

As if being on the fire team and OSAR weren't enough, I've also signed up to be on the Glacier Search and Rescue team. We've only had a preliminary meeting so I'm not 100% sure what this will entail. However, before the snows hit and cover them up, an email went out to the team asking for volunteers to go up on the glacier to replace some flags that had been blown over or were close to being blown out of their holes. The flags themselves are used as a course marker for Palmerites who want to hike the glacier but not fall in a crevasse. Of course I wanted to try it, so after a quick orientation on how to use the drill, I tagged along with my favorite research associates, Neal and Scott, and went up the glacier for the first time. Despite the yak tracks I was wearing, it was still a little unsteady and slippery, and at first, the drill felt kind of awkward to use. Nonetheless, after a couple hours of work, the first 15 flags of our inner loop were set for the winter.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Palmer's Backyard

Behind Palmer Station, there is a generous amount of land we call the "backyard". This is an area where people can hike or camp. It's a rocky peninsula that eventually meets up with our picturesque glacier in the back, Hero Inlet on one side or Arthur Harbor on the other. A couple of weeks ago, a group of us went out to explore this area despite the fact that rain was imminent and the winds were over 20 knots. It ended up being a lot of fun...good times with good people. The hiker in me was sated.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fire and OSAR at Palmer

When I originally took the Systems Administrator position for the Antarctic program, I never expected to be learning how to put out fires, rescue victims, and drive a zodiac around for rescue missions as part of my job. However, at Palmer Station, since we have such a small staff, we all have to wear a lot of hats around here (as Neal says).

This week it feels like I did more fire and OSAR (oceanic search and rescue) training than actual IT work.

On Monday, we were issued our fire gear and had our first drill. Since I'm on the SCBA team, we have to have two sets of fire gear which include oxygen tanks and masks. One is for the building I live in and one is for the building that I work in. That way, if an event occurs, I can grab the gear closest to me without having to run to a different building. The drill itself consisted of pretending to go into a building that was burning and put out the fire, all this while on oxygen. After the initial drill, we also did a LOT of hose work and testing using sea water pumps and pumping water out of the hot tub. Since I'm on SCBA this also means I get to schlump hose around which can be quite heavy when the line is charged with water. I guess that's the trade-off for getting to wear cool gear.

On Tuesday and Thursday, I also had OSAR training. On both days, before going out on the water, we spent some time with the station doctor learning how to treat hypothermic victims and how to get victims onto a backboard. Once we hit the water, our drills consisted of time at the tiller, docking at islands and towing inoperable boats. While docking at islands, we also changed out the emergency caches (barrels of gear, food and water set out in case anyone gets stuck away from station) which is an annual process. On the second day, there was a lot of brash ice around which gave us good tiller experience in those conditions. Brash ice is an accumulation of floating ice that comes off the calving glacier. This ultimately means that we have to go super slow while in the thick of it.

Even though this training was not originally anticipated, I believe this is the type of training that will stay with me for the years to come. I'm happy and feel lucky to have the chance to learn the things I'm being taught.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pier Jumping

At Palmer station, it is tradition to jump off the pier into the freezing water whenever the ship leaves or on either of the solstices. Though this idea seems crazy, I couldn't help but feel the need to participate when the ship that brought me to Palmer departed. So as the Gould pulled away, myself and about 10 others headed to the buoy to make our jump. All I can say is that the cold water is quite shocking. However, when you get out the air feels surprisingly warm giving you a nice, tingly feeling all over, and once you make the walk/run to the hot tub, it feels even better. I'm hoping to do it again when the next ship leaves.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Boating II Class

Boating is a large part of life here at Palmer station. There are several zodiac boats that get taken out for scientific reasons, like diving, but also for recreational purposes, such as just driving around, visiting islands or grabbing ice for the bar (appropriately called "bar ice").

The rules are, however, that you can't go out on a boat alone. There have to be at least two people who have completed Boating II class to go out. So the day after I arrived at Palmer, I took the class. It was exciting as it was my first time out on the water here. Also, we have an awesome boat master, so under his instruction we all got a chance to man the tiller, learn how to dock the boat to let people off at islands, and practice man overboard drills again (a good refresher after OSAR training).

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