The last thing that I expect when I come to Antarctica is the chance to get away from station for a few days. Sure, in McMurdo if you’ve got the right job, or are sleeping with the right person, it’s possible to get one of the rare boondoggles to a remote field camp, but I didn’t think that would happen at Palmer. Luckily, there’s a project here for the next six weeks or so that requires a constant source of fresh ice fish for their experiments.
In order to meet this demand, we’ve got to go out on regular trips on the Gould (our resupply vessel) to drop off baited traps, and go trolling the bottom for the particular species they are interested in. It’s a fairly manpower intensive operation, so they’ve been borrowing station members to go out with them for a few days to help out. I got to go on the second cruise last week, and had an absolute blast out there. Due to my position as the only computer guy on station, I didn’t think I’d be able to make it out, but luckily the Gould had an IT person on board that was able to swap positions with me for the three days I was gone.
We weren’t going all that far geographically, only about 30 miles or so away from the station. However, it took about 8 hours time to sail to our destination, passing thru the beautiful Neumayer strait on our way there. The Neumayer is known as one of the most spectacular bits of scenery on the Antarctic peninsula, mainly due to its narrow width, and spectacular mountain scenery on both sides. Usually you can spot humpback whales playing in the water, and there are always plenty of spectacular icebergs to watch. We got extremely lucky on our outbound passage, with perfectly clear skies and amazing visibility. One the way back, it wasn’t quite so good, but there were more whales to spot, including one humpback calf that did an amazing fin breech that unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to capture on film.
Fishing is a 24 hour activity, so the ship’s crew was divided up into two shifts. I ended up on the midnight to noon shift which made for some interesting sleep cycles. We found that we had better luck with the type of fish we were looking for during the night shift, which kept me pretty busy. The procedure was to let the net down, drag the bottom for 20 minutes, bring it back up, sort thru the catch for the species we wanted, throw the by-catch back, and repeat. It was repetitive, but it still wasn’t sitting at my desk working on servers so I was pretty happy about it. I was also pleased to be the only one of the group from the station to not get seasick! I wouldn’t mind working on the research vessels when I’m done with Palmer, so that’s a nice discovery to make. In the genetic lottery of life, I lost out on the dancing without looking like I’m having a seizure gene, but at least I got the anti-seasickness one!