The temperatures are dropping, and the days are getting significantly shorter. Compared to the South Pole, or even most of the northern states in the US, this is going to be an easy winter. Still, for the banana belt of the Antarctic, the 16 degree F temperatures (~-10c) are relatively frigid. We’ve been very lucky this season, with noticeably fewer bad weather days than the average. For me, that means that I’m trying to take advantage of the weather to play with my camera while there are still interesting things to photograph. There’s an ice cave near the location of the old Palmer station that opens and closes depending on the amount of glacier calving. Right now it’s open, and it offers some really challenging photo opportunities. I’m still working on perfecting how to capture it, but each time I go out there, I get a little better results.
One of the best things about the short day is that the sky and mountains have taken on an almost permanent pastel cast to them. I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m actually getting tired of taking sunrise and sunset photos! The local wildlife population has dropped pretty significantly, although there will probably be a few hardy seals and birds that stick around for the duration. Right now there are a couple of elephant seal colonies that don’t show any signs of leaving, some giant petrels and seagulls, and of course there are the ubiquitous “antarctic chickens” that have found the unlimited food source of our sewer outfall.
Other changes include the slow dropping of the seawater temperature. It’s not cold enough to freeze solid yet, but we are starting to get formations of pancake ice, and slushy water which is the first step in the process. The sea hasn’t actually iced over everywhere for a few years, but this has been such a weird season for weather patterns that anything could happen.
Before we get any really serious ice though, we’ve got to get the rest of the summer crew out of here. We’ve got one more supply vessel run before we shut down for the winter, and it’s scheduled to arrive here next Friday. It’ll bring our winter supply of veggies, beer, and packages from Amazon.com, and then it’ll take away the last of our trash, and everyone but 20 people. It’ll leave here on the 24th, which is three days after midwinter. Following that, it’s a quick three months of keeping everything stable, and then I’m outta here a month after the first boat of the new season.
This crew is a really good bunch of people, which is an extremely welcome change from the previous season at Pole. I don’t think I’ve talked about it before on here, but last year’s personality dynamics at the south pole left a lot to be desired. It’s really refreshing to be back at a station with a fun atmosphere where people seem to want to be here instead of just waiting for the winter to be over.