Visitors to Palmer

During the summer season, besides the cruise ships that travel the western Antarctic Peninsula, Palmer also receives visits by chartered yachts (which, this year, have to clear an Ebola exam first). Because the yachts carry so many fewer people, we’re able to interact with the passengers and crew much more. Two stopped by station recently, and were a lot of fun in different ways.

After it became known that the baseline price of the first yacht was a quarter million dollars per week, rumors began flying as to who the four passengers aboard could be. The rumors grew wilder and more numerous as the ship grew nearer, and included:

– Beyonce and Jay-Z
– The entire cast of Game of Thrones, bearing Season 5 on DVD
– Tammilee Webb (whose Abs of Steel fitness video is, for an admiring few, the prelude to lunch three days per week)
– Tom Cruise
– Obama and his family
– Shakira (to perform with Beyonce and Jay-Z)
– A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by taking the trip to Antarctica they’d dreamed of and saved for their entire married life, along with their grandchildren

In reality, the passengers we all eagerly tried to glimpse as they toured station were just two nice, normal-looking couples; as is often the case, anticipation was the most fun part.

A few days later, the yacht Ice Bird anchored in Arthur Harbor to pick up a guide and two clients who had spent two days trekking across Mt. Remmie, an unnamed peak, and the Marr Ice Piedmont. In the way that everyone immediately knows everything that happens on station, it was common knowledge the moment their tiny silhouettes appeared on the horizon of the Piedmont, eerily outside our flagged safe route up the glacier.

Excited to meet the trekkers, Conor, Mark (co-lead of the Glacier Search and Rescue team), and I formed the most informal welcome party possible. We met the group in the rocky “backyard” of station and led them to the galley, where they warmed up, drank hot chocolate, ate cookies, and showed gorgeous pictures from their trip. One even had a video in which a gentoo chick hatches from its egg and begins to groggily take in the world, before being stopped by its parent pushing it back inside the egg’s fragments! I later told the story to one of the penguin researchers, who had never seen or heard of a penguin behaving that way.

The yacht sent a zodiac to pick up the trekkers, and to deliver a letter to one of the IT specialists, whose wife is working on South Georgia Island, another popular stop for ships. He wrote a letter back, and Conor and I added a postcard and bar of chocolate to be delivered to Port Lockroy, whose employees had sent us greetings on a recent cruise ship. The travel of mail here, and willingness of people to do one another favors, is wonderful.

We’ve had a lull in visits since (besides our first Antarctic Fur Seal of the summer!), and instead have received visits from a series of passing fronts. Today has been our stormiest yet, with wind gusts above forty knots: perfect for catching up on non-sampling work, sitting by the fire, and, for the Ocean Search and Rescue team, some intense bad-weather training. Stay cozy!


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