Sunday, May 25, 2008

Humble Island

It's a blustery Sunday night here at Palmer...winds at 25 knots with gusts up to 30. On nights like these, I like to relax in the warm confines of my room while listening to the turbulence outside my window, all the while appreciating the shelter that allows me to live in comfort at one of the harshest places in the world. Tonight, during a moment such as this, I took some time to look back on pictures of my adventures at Palmer and thought I'd share my experiences at Humble Island.

Humble Island is an island that has been off limits to Palmerites for the time we've been here due to nesting Giant Petrels. However, I've had the privilege to go to this island twice in April with the 2 people, Brett and Will, that go regularly to weigh the chicks as part of an ongoing scientific study. I personally could not pick up the birds to be weighed, but I could observe and write down the weights as we made our way around the island to the known nests.

My first impression was how crazy it was for those birds to be as big as they were (over 10 lbs) and still be considered chicks which means there was still growing to be done. Also, as Brett and Will approached the chicks, I was amazed at how feisty they were...squawking and trying to take a bite out of whoever was picking them up.

By now, these birds have left the nest and flown away to other destinations until next year, when the new nests are made, the chicks are hatched, and the weighing starts all over again.

Now to brave the winds and make my way to the galley for a late dinner.

Click here for some photos

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Plunge

As the Gould pulled away this morning, heading north back to Punta Arenas, 10 Palmerites followed tradition and jumped into the frigid water followed by running quickly to the hot tub. This time, the jump was before sunrise at around 9:00. So far, I've jumped every time the ship has left for PA. Hopefully, I can keep that up all winter.

Jumping off the pier.

Good thing there's a hot tub.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Out to Sea

This weekend, I had the unique opportunity to go out on a scientific fishing expedition on the Lawrence M. Gould. The Gould has been going up and down the peninsula during the past couple of weeks fishing for Ice Fish (fish that have no red blood cells) for a current scientific research project.

So on Saturday, the Gould undocked from our pier with myself and 3 other Palmerites on board. We had perfect weather (meaning sunshine and low winds) to start our voyage that would take us into the Neumayer and eventually to Dallman Bay. That night, the Gould started trawling. Fishing is done at night as opposed to the day because the Ice Fish settle on the bottom of the sea at nighttime giving the nets ample opportunity to scoop them up. When the haul is hoisted onboard, it's a mad dash to open the net and sort through the sea creatures for the sought after fish to put in the tanks. Once the fish are out, the sea creatures are then shoveled back into the sea. A part of me wonders if they go back down telling tales of alien abductions to all their starfish and octopus friends, to which no one believes.

The next day, after the luxury of sleeping in, a group of us took a recreational zodiac boat ride despite low visibility and some blowing snow. We set out to explore Astrolabe Needle, a very Lord of the Ringsish monolith jutting out of the water. While en route, however, we amazingly encountered a humpback whale that waved its fin at us, spouted several times and got within 20 feet of our boat. Needless to say, everyone in the zodiac was super happy and excited they braved the poor conditions to have been there.

Whale Exposure Video

After that, the plan was to do a little bit more fishing and then the begin the overnight return journey to Palmer. However, as with a lot of things in Antarctica, those plans changed like a breath of wind. At some point during the night, the ship changed direction and headed towards Vernadsky, the Ukranian base. There was a patient to be medivaced to Punta Arenas. Since the Gould was heading back to PA after dropping us off and our summer doctor just so happened to be returning home on that trip, they decided (after getting approval from the NSF and Ukraine) to give him a ride.

So, overall, my one day weekend somehow turned into a two day weekend and the experiences while out at sea were full of picturesque vistas, good company, joy, and wonder. I can't believe I get paid to do this and not the other way around.

Click here for some awesome photos

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Lone Penguin

A couple of days ago, the divers were on their way back into station when they called in reporting a lone King Penguin hanging out by the shore of Torgersen Island. Apparently, King Penguins have not been spotted at Palmer for several years, so this definitely required a quick lunch time boat trip to go investigate. I'm not sure where he came from, what he was doing, what his plans were, or where he went, but sure enough, in May of 2008, there was a lone King Penguin standing by the shore of Torgersen.

as seen from the zodiac

as seen from shore

a close-up

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The brash ice was pretty thick in the area of water around our pier yesterday. Though this can be a somewhat common event, the thing that made yesterday special were two penguins trying to make their way across the ice. They were definitely traveling together. One would waddle-walk with arms straight out, hop to another piece of ice and then stop to wait for its friend to catch up. Sometimes the hops were too far, and they'd go down on their bellies and try to use their flappers to propel them forward. More often than not, this strategy would prove ineffective on the uneven, slippery ice and they would have to work extra hard to get momentum to get to a piece of ice where they could stand again.

I wasn't able to get any pictures since they were too far away for my little point and shoot camera, so I just enjoyed the moment with some of my friends. It was a great way to take a break from work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Piñata for Palmer

Is it a goat, a penguin or a seal fetus? These were some of the questions we asked ourselves as we made our homemade piñata for Cinco de Mayo. What started out as 5 balloons, soon turned into a blob and then finally, with some creativity, transformed into a penguin with a belly full of secrets and mysteries the likes of which we've never seen (as Adam so eloquently stated).

The whole process of making the penguin was a lot of fun...good times with my Palmer friends. While we thought our idea of making a piñata was totally original, it turns out that this happened last year and probably in years past as well.

Click here for some pen-tastic photos

I should mention that in the midst of our Cinco de Mayo festivities, the Laurence M. Gould was also making an early return journey back to Palmer from a fishing trip due to a medical situation on board. At around 2:00 a.m. the next morning, under the cover of darkness, 3 brave Palmerites, who did not partake in the margheritas customary at a Cinco de Mayo party, drove out to the Gould in a zodiac and helped the patient on board. As it stands now, I believe the patient is ok and the Gould will remain here, tied to the pier, until Friday.