Return of the Sea Ice

How quickly things change: last Monday, Team Bruiser had its fastest sampling day yet, clocking in at about 3.5 hours, including half an hour slow travel through brash ice. Approaching the pier at 11:45 am, we cheered “Home for lunch! Home for lunch!,” in celebration of accomplishing what had been our goal since the beginning of sampling season.

On Thursday, we were home even earlier, but only because the sea ice had again advanced so close that we could only reach the close-to-home Station B, and not Station E, located about three miles away. During the two hours we spent on the water, the ice grew visibly nearer, and by that evening, it had choked the station, turning the water white again.

We’ve been “iced in” since, and, if the forecast is right, may be until next Wednesday, when the winds are expected to shift to the NE, the direction that pushes ice out of the harbor. Though everyone is feeling a little cooped-up, there are silver linings: the conditions have given me and Conor time to prepare for the month-long research cruise beginning in early January, and relax from what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming pace. Also, now that it’s later in the summer, there are more leopard seals in the area, and we see many of them lounging on the ice near station every day.

The Gould soldiered north through the ice yesterday morning, taking with it thirteen people from station, including two scientists, whose research Conor and I will help carry out until reinforcements come in January and February. Work aside, it was sad to see everyone go, especially those I traveled to Palmer with, and met upon first arriving. We said goodbye well Tuesday night with a jam session in the carpentry shop. Due to my huge volume of musical talent, my role is typically to play the tambourine, try fervently to pluck a simple chord progression on the bass, which no one here really knows how to play, or, as on Tuesday, hold the cymbal. The vibrations running down my arm kept me laughing all night, and only made the drummers play harder.

Lately, Palmer is getting creative in other media, too: many people are working on secret craft projects for the holiday gift exchange, as well as not-so-secret movies for the Antarctic Peninsula International Film Festival. The A.P.I.F.F. has meant lots of searching for costumes (how do you have someone play the President of the United States when there may not be a suit within a thousand miles?), trying to rhyme “bowling shirts” with “white board,”  and, best of all, the constant discovery that your colleagues have talents you never imagined.

Happy almost-holidays and winter solstice to all!


One thought on “Return of the Sea Ice

  1. Hi Rachel. Fantastic blog! So much fun to hear about what you are doing. Sharon, Po, Emily, Aaron, Gordon and I just went to see a movie: Antarctica: a Year on Ice. It was playing up in SF, so we all met there for dinner and the show. Although it was centered on Mcmurdo Station, it was so enlightening about what it’s like to be doing what you and Conor are doing. Plus it was a really good movie. They even talked about the A.P.I.F.F! Say “Hi” to Conor – give him our love & a BIG hug (and tell him to PLEASE check on that geocache for me). . Happy Holidays to you, and keep the blogs coming!


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