I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday, so I will just do a quick summary. We moved the Cape Shirreff scientists into their camp. This required volunteers to unload equipment, and haul everything up on sleds from the beach to the camp. It was a good day of hard work in the snow: lots of heavy lifting and trudging through fresh powder. The highlights of the day were definitely the zodiac ride over cold Antarctic water and seeing a little group of chinstrap penguins as they walked around awkwardly in the snow. After everyone was settled in, we got back in the zodiacs, headed for the ship and set a course for Palmer Station, one of the three American stations on the continent.
It was a full day of traveling today, but there was plenty to see. When I woke up to icebergs outside my window, I felt like a little kid waking up to snow. Pretty soon the individual icebergs gave way to sea ice. This is the first time I have ever seen sea ice, and it is one of the few sights that has taken my breath away. The only color I could see was white. When the ice gave way to water again, new colors began to catch my eye: the black-brown of the volcanic islands, the clear, bright blue of the ice beneath the water, and the dark purple-ish gray of the water itself.
Our course took us through the Bransfield and Gerlache Straits, so we were traveling through the waterways between the islands and the peninsula. These islands are essentially mountains rising up from the water. They were born from the same processes as the Andes Mountains, and separated millions of years ago. From what Amelia has told me, this landscape is very different from what we will see on our cruise to East Antarctica in February. She says the topography there is just flat, with a giant ice sheet lying on top.
We arrived at Palmer Station at around 4:00 pm today. Pulling in to a station at the end of the world really stands out as a uniquely human moment. Everyone traveling on the Gould was out on deck to see Palmer as we got closer, and all the people on station were outside to watch the ship arrive. Everyone was waving to each other or calling out their hellos. I feel like the scientists and crew on station were just as excited to have visitors as we were to be able to come to Palmer. Our science crew waited until 5:30 pm and then headed over to the store. Yes, they have a store at Palmer Station where they sell all sorts of goodies: t-shirts, stickers, maps, toiletries, food, drinks, etc.
After dinner, we joined the Palmer crew at the bar for a night of socializing. And I know some readers just re-read that last sentence to make sure they got it right. Yes, there’s a bar on station. I figure everyone works really hard the whole season, there has to be somewhere to unwind. Just a normal Friday night in Antarctica: gathering with new and old friends for a few drinks and some good music. Amy says it’s the most beautiful bar in the world; I agree that you really can’t have a better view.
The whole day was a bit surreal. Throughout the day, I would stop and think about where I was, where I was heading, what I was seeing… it’s amazing. The pictures don’t really do it justice. Good thing there are a couple artists on board who take amazing pictures to really capture the beauty of this remote continent.
We will be heading out soon for five days of science. This is where we do all the hard work and I am looking forward to working with Amy, Issy, and the crew during our night shifts.