The recent arrival of the Lawrence M. Gould resupply ship marked the official end of the winter season, and the beginning of the end of my time down here. The ship arrived a day earlier than scheduled bringing down fresh veggies, supplies, and 20 new folks who are all so tan that they make the rest of us look like we’ve been living like troglodytes in an underground bunker for the past six months. The schedule had taken into consideration the normal amount of sea ice this time of the year, but as it’s been warmer than normal, there wasn’t nearly as much ice to break through. Of course not as much doesn’t mean none, and it turns out that the majority of the ice they had to break was right around station. Watching the ship muscle its way thru the 8-10 inch ice sheet surrounding the immediate area was awesome. The captain just pushed the ship ahead at full speed, and it’s steel hull cleaved right thru the ice like a hot knife thru butter. We thought that he was going to squash a couple of crabeater seals that were hanging out on the ice, but luckily for them their survival instincts overpowered their curiosity.
Socially, it’s interesting to watch the integration between the summer and the remainder of the winter crews. This has really got to be the easiest transition I’ve ever seen on the ice. Most of the people who’ve arrived are old hands at this station, and those that are newbies are adjusting really quickly. Normally most of the winter crew would only stay for a couple of weeks at most, but due to mechanical problems with the ship, we’re going to have to stay until the end of October instead of the middle. This has screwed up a couple of people’s travel plans, but personally I’m thrilled. The wildlife is finally starting to come back in force, and the water has opened up enough to get out and go explore the islands again.
Last weekend was actually one of the best boating weekends I can remember down here. I probably spent about six hours out on the water driving all over the place, taking pictures of the animals, and just enjoying the feeling of being off station for a while. The water was the absolutely clearest that I’ve ever seen…when we wandered over to the shipwreck of the Bahia Paradiso we were actually able to see the entire ship sitting on the bottom, and get a real feel for how huge it was before it sank. We also saw a huge elephant seal sitting on some rocks near shore that we had to get a photo of. I’d never realized how big these guys were up close, and how mobile they really are. Apparently later in the season it’s not unusual to come across two big bulls fighting over rights to have their own harem.
Unfortunately there hasn’t been that much boating since that first day. Since last Monday, the weather has been the worst I’ve ever seen down here. It’s been nearly five straight days of winds averaging around 30 knots, gusting to about 45. We even had one hurricane force gust yesterday of 75 miles per hour! This morning the winds have died down a bit, and we’re optimistic that this Sunday will turn out to be pleasant for going outside.