Like I have said before, geologists love to have their hands on rocks and sediment especially when it has come from a site with a well-recorded and fascinating geologic past. We had quite a bit of sediment to work with up until three days ago. Now our hands, nails, and faces are clean and we are left feeling a little upset. Our plan had been to go into Palmer Deep, near Palmer Station, to get some water samples then steam over to Palmer Station to pick up five scientists who would be ready to go home after a long stay in Antarctica. Then we would head to Boyd Strait to get one last core on our way home. However, our plans were thwarted.
The wind can be unpredictably troublesome this time of year, moving large expanses of brash sea ice around the Antarctic Peninsula like a chess player moves a queen around a chess board. One day there is no sea ice, the next day the wind pushes sea ice in from a distant location and packs it in so tight it may as well be a solid sheet of impassable sea ice. That is what happened since we last pulled in and has now stopped us from making it into Palmer Deep or Palmer Station. When we began pushing through the ice yesterday morning, we made a little over a mile of progress in about six hours (pushing into the ice until it halted us, backing, then getting a little speed to push a little farther through the ice) before we just couldn’t go any farther.
A similar scenario took place last year, which you can read about in Amelia’s blog posts from LMG12-11. However, the Gould had been docked at the station last year, whereas now we are sitting just behind the small islands ringing the embayment where Palmer is located. We can’t see the station buildings because they are masked by those islands, but we have been sitting in the sea ice 2.3 nautical miles away for the last couple days. As a consolation prize, we at least made it in close enough to get the Palmer Station internet signal and have gotten to see two minke whales surface in the hole we made in the sea ice around our ship.
If winds don’t pick up and unclog our path to Palmer Station by tomorrow, we will have to push out of the sea ice and head back toward the Drake Passage and Chile. The embarking scientists at Palmer Station will likely have to wait until the Gould returns around Christmas time to finally head home. We have our fingers crossed that we will get the winds we need, though. Until tomorrow, we do what we can to organize our things and get ready for heavy rolls at sea.