Bad Moon Rising

At Palmer, much of the research and work undertaken involves boating, and so  the weather forecast is the local equivalent of a gossip column–“Have you seen Passage yet today? Something big is about to roll in.”

The last few weeks have brought us some of our windiest weather of the season. Bad weather days are always part frustrating, as they can stymie sampling we’ve already prepared for, and part thrilling–everyone likes to watch a good squall develop, casting that characteristic flat yet bright light, fluffing up whitecaps in the harbor, and exhaling winds that will drain your coffee cup as you walk between buildings. Since my arrival in October, our record gust has been 69 kts, or almost 80 mph.

Along with some foul weather, a lot of wonderful things have happened lately. Last Friday, we celebrated Conor’s birthday with a polar plunge, creating a “vortex” in the hot tub (everyone runs in the same direction until the water is forced into a whirlpool and sweeps everyone in circles), and pumpkin pie. Saturday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with an 80’s-themed dance party. On Tuesday, we woke up to dense fog shrouding station and the surrounding islands, but the weather surprised us by turning for the better, and we had the rare and wonderful experience of sampling under blue skies.

Often, during the work day, I feel like I could be in any lab anywhere in the world, and I don’t realize and appreciate where I am. Last week, I went to a nearby island with the bird researchers to help them weigh penguin fledglings.That day, standing on an Antarctic beach, looking at a group of penguins so young they couldn’t even swim properly, three sleeping elephant seals, numerous raucous fur seals, and clear skies dotted by icebergs, I felt so lucky to be here.

Today brought another wonderful Antarctica moment: while we were water sampling at Station B, the local iceberg flipped onto its side, and a house-sized chunk calved off. We all stood for a stunned moment, then snapped into action as the resulting wave began to move in our direction, and we hastily motored away to calm water.

Even if a bad moon is gonna rise, this is a pretty good place to be.


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