Hello from Palmer Station!

It’s 7:30 pm, and one of the most beautiful days since our arrival. The mountains to the southwest are the clearest I’ve seen them, and Hero Inlet is full of open water! Until the sea ice completely blows out for the summer, we can’t go boating or collect the water samples the resident scientists need for research, but once we get some more northerly winds, the way will be clear for us to start taking out the Zodiac boats.

Amazingly, I’ve been here almost two weeks. For the group of us still settling in on station, our trip began at the beginning of October, when we left the United States. We flew to Punta Arenas, near the southern tip of Chile, loaded up with ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear, and boarded the Laurence M. Gould, an orange icebreaker lovable for her homeliness. The trip to Palmer took five days, much of that time through the famously-tumultuous Drake Passage, which was relatively calm for us. As passengers, we had little to do, and so most of our days were spent walking around deck, watching on the bow for whales and dolphins, trying to identify which of the many different types of albatrosses were following the ship, watching movies, napping, and laboring away as a group on New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles.

For most of the trip, we were out of sight of land, but on the last morning we passed through the Neumayer Channel, and saw our first icebergs, their electric blue bases just visible underwater, and our first lonely, white, mountainous islands. Many of the other passengers and I, not wanting to miss anything, spent nine hours on deck and sitting in the ship’s bridge, running outside to take pictures of the seals and penguins we saw swimming or lounging on the ice. As we drew nearer to Anvers Island, it was eerie to know that there were other people nearby, tucked away in that barren-looking landscape.

We were greeted at Palmer by the whole station, dressed in matching orange float coats, ready to help the Gould dock and to pummel us with snowballs. Since those first dizzying steps across the gangway and onto Antarctica (a combination of “dock rock” and the magic of experiencing a new continent), our time has been a flurry of learning new systems (you may have thought you knew how to do dishes, but not here) and getting ready for summer.

Conor’s and my main activity has been setting up the lab and practicing our protocols, in order to be ready for the sampling season, which could begin at almost any time—whenever the ice finally leaves and we are trained to drive the Zodiacs. Outside of work, I’ve had a great time hiking the Marr Ice Piedmont (the glacier behind station, which dominates much of Anvers Island), having snowball and icicle fights, attending dance lessons (tonight was foxtrot and cha-cha), and learning to make chocolate babka.

More soon!


3 thoughts on “Hello from Palmer Station!

  1. Great first post Rachel and wonderful to see the Shackleton quote and your blog title, side by side!! Thanks for taking us all along on this grand experience that you and Conor are having. Your text and photos help me imagine life at Palmer Station. I know Sharon and I spend a lot of time staring at the Palmer Station webcam @ http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/palwebcam.cfm Can’t wait for your next post!


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