I hate to say it, but for all you people working back in the real world, life just isn’t fair. I’m on my third year down on the ice, and I still can’t believe that they pay me to do this. Sure, I put in a lot of hours during the week, but the weekends more than make up for it. This past weekend was another couple of amazing weather days. Sunday especially was an extraordinary day with clear blue skies, temperatures of around 30 degrees F, and hardly any wind to speak of. With weather like this, most of the people on station head off to get some much needed time away from the main buildings, and I’m no exception!
One benefit to being on this station instead of the South Pole is that we are far enough north that we will never get the 24 hour darkness that the rest of the continent has to deal with. We’re about 120 miles north of the Antarctic circle, which is the spot on the globe that marks the southern most spot that has days of 24 hour darkness or daylight. We will get some pretty short days, however, and right now sunrise is about 8:30 am, and sunset is about 4:00 pm. Days are getting shorter by about 16 minutes every day, but even on June 21st, (midwinter day) we still will have a bit of daylight left around noon.
Anyway, I was determined to make the most of the daylight, so early Saturday morning I headed out on one of the Zodiacs to Humble Island. This is one of the islands that will have a pretty good amount of wildlife year round, and I was hoping to practice my photo skills. We didn’t see any penguins on land (just swimming in the water), but we did see three types of seals and several varieties of birds, including a bunch of giant petrel chicks that are just getting to the stage where they’re losing their down and getting their permanent feathers. I took a bunch of pictures, and then we headed back to station to get ready for the evenings festivities.
Every now and then it’s traditional at Palmer to have a “Neanderthal Cafe” evening, where the galley is decorated up like a proper restaurant, and everyone comes dressed in costume. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to go as, so I just threw a bunch of random props together and called it a costume. I think I was going as a “weird guy in a bathrobe with a chicken on his shoulder”. Since this is a PG rated website, I’ll leave it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the jokes that can come from that situation!
The next morning I decided that the best cure for a hangover was outdoor activities. Several of us were feeling up to boating so we ran back over to Humble again to try to take some even better photos based off of what we learned from the previous day’s shooting. After we got our fill of that, we decided to head over to an area called Loudwater Cove to check out a giant iceberg that we’d heard about. This berg looked big from a distance, and when we were actually driving around it it was even more impressive! It was wedge shaped, kind of like a wooden doorstop. We could just imagine the noise that this thing must have made when it calved off of the glacier! We took a few shots of that, and then decided to head over to Christine Island in the hopes of finding some penguins to photograph. We got halfway to that island, and were about a mile and a half away from the station when we detected a smell on the wind that totally changed our plans…lunch! The cooks on our resupply vessel were cooking steaks on the grill, and surprisingly we could smell it from that far away. The idea of a big hunk of meat was more appealing to our hangovers than a possible penguin sighting so we headed back in for some chow.
After lunch I decided to join a few other people up on the glacier for an afternoon of snow skiing. We had about five people on a combination of boards and skis being pulled up the glacier by a rope hanging off the back of a snowmobile, and then heading back down. The glacier had about three or four inches of powder on it, not great conditions, but I’ve skied on worse back home! We stayed up there until the sun was behind the mountains and it was starting to get seriously dark. It was way too much fun, and I can’t wait till the next weekend to do it again!
Today my legs were pretty sore from using some muscles that I hadn’t exercised in a couple of years. It has been about three years since I’ve been downhill skiing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly everything came back. Of course a day skiing isn’t complete without a hot tub, so that’s pretty much what tonight’s activities were. I had kitchen cleanup duty tonight, and then after that was finished the cleaning crew all headed outside to the hot tub to split a bottle of wine and a few laughs. It’s actually snowing outside now, but the water is hot enough that you really don’t mind at all. There were a bunch of Antarctic Terns flying overhead, and the glacier was extremely active, calving with a roar every few minutes.
The rest of this week should be fun as well…on Wednesday I’m heading off station for a couple of days with our supply vessel to go help with a research fishing cruise. I’m pretty sure it’ll be lots of work, but I can’t wait to get started!