Sunday, June 29, 2008

Special Teams

A requirement of being on the fire, OSAR and GSAR teams is that you participate in a monthly drill or a monthly training. As with most things in life and since we're all human, we tend to procrastinate on getting this done. So as the end of the month is upon us, there have been trainings and drills all around for us team members.

First, we had OSAR training where we took out two boats for man overboard drills. I, and two others, volunteered to wear immersion suits so we could go overboard into the cold water to be rescued by our fellow teammates. It was hilarious and fun!

Second, we had a surprise fire drill where Adam and I (SCBA Team 1) had to search for and rescue a victim that was passed out in his room. This produced a most respectable sweat as the victim weighed about 200 lbs, we were in full SCBA gear comprised of heavy clothing and packs, and we had to take the victim down a flight of stairs. On the bright side, though, we had him rescued in a good amount of time, theoretically saving his life. We all had a toast to this the night of the drill while admiring the victim's carpet burn on his back from getting dragged along the hallway.

Finally, on Friday, we had a GSAR training exercise. First, we practiced setting up an industrial haul system with ropes, special knots, pulleys, and ice axes/screws that would be used to pull people out of crevasses. After that, we headed up to the glacier to possibly practice snowmobile driving, to practice walking on a rope team and to reposition/redrill some flag lines that marked cracks in our safe zone.

Overall, it was a time filled with laughter, some floating in the sea, sweat, cold hands and racing heartbeats.

Click here for some photos

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mid-Winters Weekend

Mid-Winters day is a very profound holiday in Antarctica, celebrated by winter-overs at stations all across the continent. It marks the day when the sun starts making a return journey back into our lives. During this time, greetings from one station to another abound, elaborate dinners are prepared and relished, and everyone gets some much needed time off. Here at Palmer, we also have a tradition of jumping into the sea at the exact time of the solstice. This year, that happened at 7:59 p.m. I, personally, was not prepared and ended up going in with the clothes I wore to dinner. Others, however, did take time to dress appropriately in swimsuits, and my colleague, Paul, in a bout of fashion bravery, prepared himself by dressing in the infamous Palmer IT liger suit (which I'm told that as part of IT I must wear at some point during my stay).

The Mid-Winter Crew

Solstice Plunge

Hangin' Out in the Hot Tub After it was all Said and Done

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good luck...

to all my awesome friends climbing Hood this weekend. I hope you have clear skies, low winds, and a sensational trip up to the top.

Here at Palmer, we'll be celebrating Mid-Winters Day and the return of the sun, but you'll be in my thoughts.

Much love! Be safe!


Monday, June 16, 2008

Slingin' Fish Video

Below is a pretty cool video put together by our lab manager, Chris. It's showing the offload of crates of fish from the Gould after a recent scientific fishing expedition. Almost everyone on station is in it at some point, and every time you watch it, you see something new.

Side note: Video master, Chris, also proved how cool cool he is when last night, he selflessly helped us out at GASH (weekly Galley and Skullery Help cleanup) since we were short-staffed at just 3 people. Thanks so much, Chris!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vernadsky and the Continuing Antarctic Education

This weekend, I got the awesome opportunity to visit my 5th Antarctic station. On Saturday, myself and about 15 other Palmerites set sail on the L. M. Gould for an overnight voyage through the beautiful Lemaire Channel to the Ukrainian base, Vernadsky. Since the waters close to station were too shallow for the Gould to tie up, we all climbed aboard two zodiacs to race across to the dock where the Ukrainians stood waiting for us and waving. As part of this trip, we delivered their new chef, who hitched a ride from Chile on the Gould, and a gift of fresh food for their winter. Once there, we took a tour, took part in a gift giving tradition between station managers, ate some food that was so nicely prepared by the all male station, took pictures and drank vodka. I also feel like I learned a lot on this trip. For instance, I learned:

1. That a drink referred to as "Milk and Honey" is not actually milk with honey poured in, but is in fact a specially fermented home brewed vodka that has a powerful kick.

2. Budmo! = Cheers! in Ukrainian

3. People with the name of Thor really do exist and they are good to have as a darts partner.

4. Fish heads can be given as gifts.

5. This sign probably has lots of important tips about abominable snowmen, skeletons, and goldfish tacos with glasses of water.

6. The Ukrainians are a super friendly and hospitable and can lay out a nice spread of food for visitors.

7. That one day away from Palmer can make me feel like I'm coming home upon my return.

Click here for some photos

To see more about Vernadsky, click here to visit their cool slightly out of date website.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Many Thanks

Turning 30 in Antarctica was an experience I'll not soon forget and I will remember with poignancy. Not only was Palmer a cool place to have a milestone birthday, it was made even more special by all the well-wishes that I received from emails, voice mails, Facebook/Myspace posts, signs in the galley, a card signed by almost all on station, balloons at my desk, and just simple exchanges in the hallway.

For those of you that weren't here, my birthday was spent at work, but work with a twist. No one here let me forget that it was a special day, and I heard "Happy Birthday" many times over the course of the day. The chef, Diane, made a very yummy Indian curry dish and naan for dinner, and there were some awesome, specially decorated cupcakes for dessert. Then it was off on a hike in the backyard, made possible by a break in the weather. The winds had died and the clouds had moved away, leaving an expanse of stars overhead like I have never seen before. After that, I spent some time randomly doing cartwheels in the bar and sipping some very tasty scotch by the fireplace with good company.

So thank you, my friends and family, for your thoughts and kind actions and words. For those of you back home in the States, I miss you and will see you soon. For those of you here on this continent with me, I'll see you bright and early in the morning. Lots of love!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Winter is the New Summer

As we approach the winter solstice here, I realize that while friends back home are just starting their summer, winter has definitely come to Palmer. It's been snowing lately, making for pretty scenery and causing slippery walkways despite what seems like endless shoveling.

Winter is not so clear-cut here as it is with the other stations who have only one day and one night per year. Here, since we're above the Antarctic circle, we still have days and nights, but our daytime is getting down to around 3 hours per day and I don't feel as if I've seen the sun in weeks.

Also, we currently have what we are calling "pancake ice" (big, round, flat, snow-covered pieces congealing together) in Hero Inlet and Arthur Harbor. They are just waiting for an easterly wind to blow them away, but until then, the seals get to enjoy hanging out on their favorite ice float and this makes boating almost impossible as a test yesterday proved.

Besides crazy ice, we've also had some high winds and surge over this past weekend that did a number on our boats. One boat in particular, Boat 99, got free when it's 2 stern lines and 1 bow line snapped, and it ended up taking a little vacation, carried away by surge and tide, into the inlet. Luckily, it was found, but it came back pretty deflated and the divers had to go on a recovery mission to get the one of the motors that had broken off and fallen to the bottom of the sea.

Regardless of the difficulties that can occur with winter, the fireplace beckons during these Antarctic nights, while it's dark and snowing outside. Then, time for bed and dreams of the day when I can ski the glacier now that there is snow...hopefully Sunday.

Pancake Ice

The One That Got Away

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I find that in my later years in life, at the grand old age of almost 30, that I absolutely love hats. I pondered this fact last night while I hung hooks for the 4 hats that I brought with me to Antarctica and thought about all the lonely hats I left behind in the States in storage. Obviously, it wasn't a night for deep contemplation.

Since I'm a hat fanatic, maybe it's not so different that I feel like I wear a lot of hats here at Palmer. First and most obvious is the Systems Administrator hat, but that's an old one as I've been doing that for years. Next would be community member and fellow House Mouse-er (weekly station cleaner) and GASH-er (Galley and Skullery Help-er - i.e. weekly kitchen cleaner). Also, there's fire team, OSAR and GSAR, all carrying with them more responsibility than I'm accustomed. Finally and unexpectedly, since they haven't hired a Communications/Satellite Tech for the winter, myself and the network engineer are wearing that hat as well. Mostly this entails answering "Palmer Station" radio calls and replacing radios and radio parts. However, this hat has become even more prominently worn lately when a couple of weeks ago, I had to learn how to measure the angle of our satellite and when last week, we had to take an adventurous walk to an outlying building in the dark in 30-40 knot winds to inspect the premises when we were having radio trouble. Though this new role was unexpected, I try not to feel overwhelmed but try to enjoy the chance to learn new things that otherwise would have passed me by.