Monday, November 28, 2005

New people arrive

The Clipper Adventurer was the first non-NSF vessel since 1997 to be allowed to dock at the pier at Palmer station.  We have been expecting our scientists and other staff for three weeks, but somehow the ice thought it was a good idea to build up all night and then into the next morning.  All spawned by the retched northern winds.  The ice makes it impossible to get our Zodiacs out to receive our most precious passengers that have crossed the Drake Passage three times in a row.  Therefore the Clipper was not surprised that the head of NSF had no objections to allowing his boat to tie up at our pier.  Everyone was totally impressed by this ships agility and speed of taking port.  Our new people are here!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Yesterday was Thanksgiving for us.

Yesterday was our thanksgiving feast day.  It was amazing!  First there are only 36 people left on station.  The amazing quantity of preparation that goes into a meal like this just blows my mind.  Our two chefs roasted 5 turkeys and baked 33 pies.  Quite a bit of help came from those here that have favorites or just love to cook.  This greatly increased the ability to overeat.  The food here is always great but last night the variety of foods, vegetarian and regular, was amazing.  There was so much to try; I ended up inflicting more pain upon my body than I ever had at Thanksgiving Dinner.  

Wish us luck our late arrivals should be showing up tomorrow on the Clipper Adventurer, but right now we are iced in and the captain does not like ice.  This is the third time that these people will have crossed the Drake Passage.  I hear that they have had mostly good rides.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

just a wish for you

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are short handed!

We are short handed now.  It is just Kerry and myself.  Paty Matrai lucked out and jumped aboard the Clipper Adventurer, a beautiful cruise ship that was coming through the area and traded rides for a couple of our stranded scientists for a tour of the station for its 190 passengers.  This was a great experience for both sides of the deal.  We were able to talk with people about what it is we are doing here and they were able to learn about a program that does not get much attention.  So now our schedule is much different and we are stretched to the end of our capabilities, but we are still having fun.  
Our day in a nutshell runs like this. We have been getting up at 530 to hit the gym and wake up, but more recently that has been a luxury that we could not afford.  Then on to the lab at about 700 where we start organizing and processing samples left over from the day before.  As sampling time gets closer we switch over into prepping to go out in the Zodiac, this would not seem to be that big of a deal but you have to remember everything you could possibly need, including cameras and some food.  We head out to our first station about 1100 in the morning and collect out depth profile samples.  This takes us about 2 hrs per station.  Lately we have been  only able to sample one station per day.  Our scope is two extreme stations.  One is called Station B and it is located within a quarter mile of Palmer Station.  It is relatively shallow at a max depth of 65 meters.  Station B supplies growth earlier in the season because of its deptha dn location.  The other Station is E, located about 2 miles from Palmer.  This stations unique aspect is its depth at 165 meters and more a continuously harsher wind pattern.  Station E will bloom late in the season and will show different outcomes and activity.  After sampling our stations we head back and Kerry starts her long day preparing samples.  This process takes about four to six hours, filtering, basifying, acidifying, measuring, pouring, it goes on and on.  During this period I get the equipment functioning and start preparing for samples from Kerry and start setting up my isotope experiments down in the RAD VAN.  We are almost always still at it until about 2300.  It all starts again the next morning at 0530.  Well it is keeping us on our toes.  That is for sure.  

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Finally Sampling

So back on the 17th I had mentioned that the ice blew out in an overnight storm.  This gave us the chance to finally get out to one of the closest stations (B) to gather some samples from our depths of interest.  This was quite an experience with the winds gusting up to 25 knots and at a steady 15 knots.  The air was about 15°F but the wind was pounding us continuously for two hours.  The cold is extremely emphasized when you are sampling seawater and your hand and clothes are soaking wet.  We were very lucky to have packed many hand warmers, we did not hesitate to break those bears out.  The wind was so intense that it did not just cause issues for us staying warm but Kerry and I also had a heck of a time keeping ourselves on station.  Continuously running the motor is not my favorite way to ensure that we are in place so we kept back tracking.  We started to realize that our motion has been bringing us out of a deep location and into an area where we could possible be dragging one, possibly two, of our $4000 GoFlo bottles on the bottom.  (A Go-Flo sampling bottle is a plastic hollow tube with rotating valve ends that close when they are triggered with a solid brass weight.  The bottle is then lifted from depth to be collected for analysis.)  Our Zodiac is a new rig that has never been taken out before and on this trip we found that we were missing some important equipment, a depth finder.  This means that we would not know if we were in the shallow area.  We could not attempt to sample under these conditions.  So we traded boats with our cohorts from Maria Vernet’s lab and commandeered one of the awesome lab techs from her lab, Austin. He was a tremendous help leading us through our very first time collecting depth samples on a zodiac.  We are used to sampling on large ships but this 15ft zodiac is a little more precarious.  


Waste is one of the most important aspects of having a station in Antarctica.  This unique environment provides us with a superb stage for performing research that will hopefully reveal modes of operation in atmospheric chemistry.  We can use this so we can better understand how to fix the damage we have already caused and stop further global deterioration. The Antarctic Conservation Act is very strict about preserving the conditions in Antarctica.  What this law states is that there can be no effects left by man on any part of Antarctica.  This means no interacting with animals other than observation, no species can be introduced here, nothing can be removed and especially waste is highly regulated.  Everything must be sorted for return to South America, wood, glass, paper, plastic and organic waste.  Reasoning for collection of organic waste is due to accidental release of seeds, vegetable matter, soaps, and especially chemicals.  Yes there are chemicals in foods that are not allowed to be released into the Antarctic soils and water.  Our sewage processes all drain water to ensure no passage of these compounds.  Waste is very complicated and of the utmost importance.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Environmental station?

I received this comment the other day and somehow it did not go through correctly.  If some of you have out in Anonymous comments and they have not gotten posted, this might be due to the Anonymous function.  This one was luckily mailed to me, but extremely late.  I am sorry about that.

George - I'm curious as to how Palmer station gets its power and how
Environmentally friendly it is.

This is an extremely good question.  I had to ask about this because there are not any obvious signs around the station.  We produce all of our power by diesel fuel.  This is not an environmentally friendly form of power production but currently friendly forms of energy are not stable enough to sustain human life in Antarctica.  I submitted that this was a very backward relationship.  “We are down here to study how we can repair the damage that we have inflicted upon the earth while we are at the same time we are supplementing the problem.”  I was told that our impact down here is extremely minimal.  After a little thought it occurred to me that we are a small station of a maximum of 42 people living here in the summer.  Plus all of the people here are extreme conversationalists that make every effort to use the minimum of electricity.  I am also assured that the station does not use near the quantity of resources that the same number of people do on average in the US.  This is due to the quality of structures, insulation and management of resource use.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The LMG has left the Building!

So the LMG has left the building!  The ship traversed up to King George’s Island and was hanging out at the Chilean base where they, and ourselves, were waiting to find out if the plane from Rothera was going to make a visit.  They could not.  Due to weather in the morning at Rothera then when that cleared the storm had reached us and the last possible window was closed by the lingering storm that covered both us and King George’s Island.  That was the end of our chances for our needs to be met and it slipped away in the schedule of the LMG’s much needed repairs.  Well the ship is now almost three days distance away and we woke up to an amazing thing.  The ice is totally gone out of our harbor.  Guess that is Murphy’s Law for you (anything can go wrong, it will).  Well I caught a photo of the LGM stuck in the ice.  Check it out in my gallery.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

No LMG for us!

Sorry for that pause.  We had a very busy day with a new experiment (which I will explain in a comment for those of you who would like to read it).  We also had some issues with the LMG (Lawrence M. Gould).  The ship, bringing new people, much needed gear, freshies, mail, and not to forget to mention to bring home all of the people that are scheduled to get back to their lives, could not push its way through.  The LMG was short one engine and the ice is abnormally thick.  So the administration here got to work on alternatives to receive our gear and return our people.  This made for a very busy and distracting day, every hour or so an announcement would come over the “all call” saying “We have found a cruise ship in the area, we are trying to contact them and see if they can help.”   These type of updates continued all day until finally the LMG had worked its way out of the ice and was back in open water.  This opened the scheme of alternatives up much wider.  Now the plan was to ask the British base at Rothera to fly our team and good out to King Georges Island and meet up with the LMG to bring back personnel and our most important selection of our gear.  We are still waiting to find out what is going to happen…  1600 this evening.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ship ahoy!

Today the Lawrence M. Gould should be coming back into station.  The arrival time has been a subject of great speculation due to the engine that failed on our crossing of the Drake has failed again.  The reason that it is more of an issue on this run is because the winds here have brought in a huge amount of small icebergs.  The Captain sounds sure that he will be able to successfully navigate the treacherous blocks, but I still have my doubts about the ship actually making it here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Comments Please!

So I have not been getting any comments on this blog.  I have gotten a few emails for photos and I took care of those right away.  I like being able to convey good information and photos that people want to see but I need more feedback.  If you would like to have more information on the social life here or the science that is happening, things like the weather and events that we are celebrating just give me the word.  Comments are available to everyone.  Press the comment icon and leave a comment or a question.  It is way easy!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Iron Time

Working out has been on the back burner for a long time.  We have two weeks invested in getting organized in the lab and adjusting our lifestyles to fit the preexisting crew here.  No one like it when new people come in and screw up the schedules.   So having been extremely enticed by the gym during our orientation made me crave iron time and muscular pain to a level I haven’t felt in the longest time.  This is due to the extremely long days with exhausting ends.  Being tired and feeling like there is really no reason for it SUCKS!  So since Monday I have been back to it and I am finally starting to feel that great energized extra bit of energy and that spunk that makes the day so much more fun.  All thanks to a great gym, I will get photos later, maybe a video.

Oh ya, you have got to check out my gallery for the newest in photos and VIDEO, ya video.  Check it out and tell me what you think.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The ice is back in town...

The Ice has not left!  We got back from our little mock sampling trip yesterday and the ice was on its way back.  The wind had shifted and the mass of ice flowing toward us reminded me of a creepshow2 story where a roving blob eats everything in sight.  Can’t beat that kind of mental visualization while stuck on an island in Antarctica, at least it isn’t the THING.  So the point of all that was just to say that the Ice is back and we are repeating the same thing over and over again.  

Maybe something will happen soon.

Paty, The PI in charge of organizing everything down here is leaving on Tuesday of next week.  She is not happy about not being able to start any real science.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How cool is this place?

Ok the setup down here is amazing.  We have internet service 24-7 and at not too shabby of a connection speed.  I asked for some help on a process from one of my friends and lab-mates and he was just able to chat with me on messenger like we were in separate rooms.  I am in Antarctica with the internet and a phone.  How crazy!  The only really weird thing is that we hang out with the same 42 people everyday, and we are confined to approximately one square mile.  All is well though because everyone is very cool.

Ice is moving! Woo Hoo!

Holy cow! We are going nuts this morning.  The ice has retreated by about 1000m and it is a good idea for us to get out and take a quick bucket sample of the surface so that we can start to get some ideas about the levels of DMS, DMSP, CDOM, and bacteria.  I will tell you more later.  Rock on!  A’ boating we will go!

Monday, November 07, 2005


Today we had the chance to get out in the water with one of the zodiacs.  This was an attempt to see if we could get some viable samples while the ice was still packed in the bay.  Hugh, Fen, Niki, and I ventured out in the bacteria zodiac, carrying the call sign “this ice sucks”, to try and get a couple depth samples and a surface sample.  We pushed through the pancake ice moving huge sheets from side to side until we finally made it into a clear section to dip our sample tubes.  I took a video of exactly how everything works to give an idea to you at home what it is that we are actually doing here.  After sampling we started pushing our way back starting to realize that we could not see the path that we took to get ourselves out here.  Hugh said slowly in his low tone voice “This is not goooood…”.  Not a minute later he had us stuck on top of a huge piece of pancake ice.  See, Hugh has this slow way of going through the ice, getting stuck periodically and then just gunning it to get free.  Not this time!  We did everything we could from chopping ice with ores to pushing with one leg out on the ice and the other trying to keep us safe.  That is when the girl in the boat took control and gunned the motor back and forth until we were free.  Goes to show that these men have no game over the young girls here.  Shame shame shame….  Why didn’t I step in?  It’s not my boat baby.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Today started quite crazy like. We came into Palmer on the Friday of last week that was seven days ago and the ice was still here (check out photos at my gallery). That evening while the Gould was at the dock, and we were still staying on the boat, the wind picked up from the north and started blowing the ice out to sea. The next morning started to show more water and sparse ice, by the end of the day the ice had almost fully retreated, and by the next day all was clear. Now the bay remained clear for two days and yesterday all was calm and the ice rolled back in slowly but surely. This is not a good sign. Our science relies on cleared ice so we can traverse out to our stations, some of which are two miles away. So I woke up this morning and saw the ice is packed in even tighter. Now we are all hoping for a good sized storm. Today is my brothers birthday. Happy Birthday Geoff!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

We have been setting up all of our equipment, organizing the lab and checking our methods to smooth out any issues over the last six days. This was all in preparation for gathering samples from two predetermined stations here outside of Anvers Island. After all of this preparation we are still not ready to go. Working 14hrs a day should be plenty of time to get things running, right? Well not when you are setting up for 10 primary investigators (PI's). Ya, there are 10 head scientists in on this project. Well there are only three of us here, Two SUNY-ESFer's Kerry McElroy and My self. And one other PI, Paty Matrai from Bigalow Labs in Boothbay Harbor ME. Just the three of us and too much work to be done by ten PI's and all of their workers (three a peice). This means that the three of us are going to be doing the work of 30-40 scientists. In this case we will be doing all of the experiments that all 40 scientists would have been doing, had they been here, but we will not collect samples everyday. We are setting up to sample twice a week, still too much for the amount of studies to be done, and we will be spreading the analysis out over the week. We will see how it goes. I will be keeping up on this from now on. Chat later.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well, We are here and things are starting to finally get set up. Palmer station is one of the coolest places I have ever been. I don't have enough time to fill you in completely but I also didn't want anyone to think I had forgotten this Blog. I will be getting everyone up to speed in the next couple days. Mean time I have taken some mental break time to hike the glacier and even snowboard down it. Cheers!