Sunday, June 26, 2005

Chapter 5 - Winter Over; Palmer Style

15 June 89

Just a quick marsgram to say hello and let you know that I had a nice birthday. The cook gave me my choice of meals and I chose lobster. He also cooked up scallops in a wine sauce with fresh made pasta. The cake was great too; chocolate with a chocolate kaluha frosting! To say the least, I porked out!

Got my choice of movies too, so I chose Witches of Eastwick. I hadn't seen it since it came out and we just got it in here. Took a late night dip in the hot tub, but only a couple of stars were out last night. We had a warm front come in with lots of clouds. Three nights ago, the sky was so clear, you could see forever.

We're having an Indian Summer right now. Winter starts next week, but our temps yesterday and today soared above 32F for the first time in over two weeks. Down here that is almost like T shirt weather! The breeze smells fresh like spring. By the time you get this, it will probably be back to cold and snow. But it is nice while it's here.

The ship comes in on Saturday. My old supervisor, Al, said that I have a bunch of mail coming. So, I'm looking forward to Saturday. I'm hoping to go skiing today. The station manager and the cook have been up on the glacier already and seemed to have a good time. With so little light now, you have to be out at noon and the sun is setting by 2:30 p.m. I've taken a couple of nice sunset pictures. I don't think I've seen the sun above the glacier in the past week or so.

BJ and Ned were able to get rooms apart once the last crowd left, but that still hadn't solved the arguement about Ned snoring. Unbeknownst to us and Ned, before BJ had moved to his own room, he went to the pains of recording Ned's snoring. Last night we were at the bar just drinking and playing pool and BJ brings out a tape to play in the bar. He turns up the volume and all we hear is snorting and snoring! We were all dying laughing, but now we can be a bit more sympathetic to BJ's plight. BJ has dubbed this recording "Ned's Snotbox Sonata."

23 June 89

Just passing some time while my data goes out on the satellite. The satellite conditions have been good for crap all week and tonight it looks as though we may get the news for the first time in a week!

This new batch of scientists are really keeping me on my toes. I forgot how much instruction they needed and how busy it makes us here. It is kind of nice to have the new faces in.

We had a darts party with the British guys at Faraday Station on Tuesday night. We are only about 25 miles away as the crow flies, but cannot get there, so we set up the radio and gave a shot by shot description of the shots! I don't know if the Faraday guys really believed that the women at Palmer weren't really wearing see through teddies while throwing darts, but it kept them interested in the game! Palmer didn't win, but we didn't lose anything more than a few songs losers sing. Then the following night, an impromptu party broke out and we danced for the first time since New Years Eve. It was great and we all paid the price the following day!

The weather has been great all yesterday and today. We have had at least a foot of snow with some high winds in the morning to blow all the snow around. It is nice to see some foul weather for a change. The temps are staying fairly warm between 25 32F.

I've finally had the chance to do some reading since the winter has started. I am almost through the J.R. Tolkien series, Lord of the Rings. I have started into the final book and can't believe how fast I've covered the series. I have also started the listen to some Spanish tapes, but haven't made any serious effort yet to keep up with that...soon though.

Thanks for sending me the care package. I owe you one. It will be nice to see some new things by the time it arrives. By now you should hopefully have received the boxes I sent home. Don't dig through everything, but there is a letter in the box to explain things.

23 June 89

Happy mid winter from the bottom side of the world. This week is officially mid winter Celebration everywhere on the continent, but here! The South Pole and the British particularly have a huge feast and party during this week to celebrate.

I'm starting to get anxious about leaving already. Some days it feels like I've been here such a short time, but this week was eight months. The winter here so far hasn't been all that harsh. The temps haven't been below 20F and most of the snow we have had up till this week has not been anything serious. We're in the middle of a snowstorm and mild wind storm since yesterday and it looks like it may last through tomorrow at this rate. It's nice to see the foul makes me feel like I'm roughing it a little! You would be surprised at how mild the climate is this far north in the southern hemisphere.

It's 2:30 a.m. on the 24th and I've decided to finish this letter before I go to bed. Got my traffic out and news in for the first time in a week. The satellite has been noisy most of this week and South Pole has first dibs on the prime satellite time since they have a very small window to see the satellite this time of the year.

It's still snowing like the devil, probably the worst storm I've seen since I've been here. The drifts are stacking up and the snow hasn't shown any sign of letting up. The Polar Duke is supposed to come in on Sunday and pick up the scientists on station now for a science cruise and drop off the others that have been out for a week. The ship will only be in for a night, then back out again in the morning. The longest stay the ship had on station was when the Bahia went down. All the science then revolved around studying the effects from the oil/diesel released from the sinking ship.

24 June 89

This week made my eighth month here and the countdown is started. We have a full house on station now with about 20 people. It has been nice to have some new faces on station, but the Duke comes in tomorrow and will take this group of beakers out on a cruise and will leave off the other group that is on the ship now.

The weather has finally started to break after a two day snowstorm. Looks like we are in the middle of winter now. Some of the drifts are five and six feet high. I think we had about 1 1/2 feet of snow and the winds are pushing it all over the place. Can't wait to get back home and sleep in my nice warm waterbed with the covers pulled up to my neck!

I spoke with Gram and she is doing well. She was bragging about how nice the weather is in Arizona after I told her about our snowstorm. I told her to send some of that sun down here for a week or so.

01 July 89

Things here have picked up over the last couple of weeks since the ship came in. We have two groups of scientists that came in, but they aren't all on the station at one time. The bigger group is out on a cruise now and will stop in on Wednesday for three hours to drop off their catch then head back out. So there has been a pick up in traffic and I've been busier since I've started my inventory.

The weather over the past couple of weeks has reminded me that I'm not in Florida anymore. We had a snowstorm last week that lasted a good two to three days and dropped close to two feet of snow on us. We had five and six foot drifts all over. The one part of the stairway to the other building was completely covered and you had to walk on the railing. This week things are back to normal. Temps are a little cooler between 20 and 30F. The days are now getting longer, but I don't see any difference yet.

The sun still doesn't come up till ten and still disappears around three. We haven't had too many clear days to see the sunset either, but we're better off than South Pole. They haven't seen any sun since the beginning of April, and won't until I think sometime in August. Then it's only a little light and no red flaming ball. We haven't had any sea ice collect in the harbor this year. The water temp is around 31 degrees, but seawater doesn't freeze easily.

02 July 89

Yesterday and today we had a low front scream through here, so we have been having some great winds! The walls in the Comm Center bow in with every gust. The wall in the comm center here was breathing this morning with every gust. It looked like something out of Poltergeist! The wall would push in, then relax and shake everything on the wall. Sleeping in my bunk was like riding in a train last night. Shake, rattle and roll! In addition to the wind, there has been a lot of solar activity lately too. Trying to send and receive data from the satellite has been loads of fun. I get halfway through a file, get thrown out and can't call back up the remote script!

We are going to be roasting a pig here tomorrow. We will have tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday off, but had to work through this weekend. The only thing we will have to do on Wednesday is tie the ship up and send them off after they unload their fish samples. They are collecting krill, copapods and I think some ice fish too.

A couple of the scientists here went to Easter Island before they came down, so I've been bombarding them with questions about what to see and where to stay and where to go. The one girl brought down the book, Aku Aku and I did manage to read it this week. Written by Thor Heyerdahl, was really interesting and give a good background on Easter Island's history, people and culture. At this point, I'm not sure if anyone else is going up to Easter Island from our group, but being alone has never stopped me before.

I still want you to send the copy you bought for me so that I can refer back to it while I'm there. That way I'll know the significance of the sites as I'm seeing them. The only other thing I'll need is the sun screen and I'll be set to go. The more I talk to these two, the longer I think my stay on the island should be. I'll keep you informed once I solidify my plans.

03 July 89

The weather has calmed down some since I last wrote. The snow is packed down somewhat now, but the temps are still in the lower 20's and the wind comes and goes. The Polar Duke is coming in tomorrow to drop off some animal samples krill, copapods and ice fish for the scientists. We are also going to have two small pigs on a spit for the occasion. The crew is Canadian and Canada Day was on the first, so I think they will be celebrating too.

06 July 89

Fourth of July here was great! The Duke came in a day early, so we had a full house for the party. Robbin and Pat (our new GFA), cooked two piglets on the spit. We all had a great meal and a good party that night. I’ve hidden the head from the pig in the deep freeze for the Fall crew to discover when the resupply comes in in October!

Things are starting to get back to normal after the holiday and the Polar Duke stopping in and going back out. We worked through the weekend last weekend and took off on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Still had some things to get done throughout the weekend like traffic and weather observations, but overall, it was a pretty laid back few days. Too much partying, too much good food, the way it is supposed to be over a holiday.

Yesterday the Duke left and the weather was really snotty. The wind was blowing and it was raining. We had to crawl over icy rocks and snow drifts to get to the hasps that the bow lines were hooked to. Plus, it wasn't a lot of fun to get up at 10 a.m. when you didn't get to bed until 05:30 a.m. We did have a good snowball fight with the scientists on the ship before the ship pulled away.

Today it has been raining most of the day, but surprisingly not much of the snow has melted away. One of the scientists birthday was also on the fourth, so we had another reason to celebrate. I've been playing with this print shop program, so I made a banner for her birthday and colored it in with highlighters.

I'm nursing an infection in my shin right now. I tell ya, it takes forever for sores to heal here. I slid into a wall on a wet floor and buried my shin into a metal corner strip a few weeks ago. It didn't show any signs of infection until last week. Doc has instructed me to use warm compresses to bring the infection out and some bacterial cream. Give it a couple of days and the infection should be cleared.

Stand by, dinner's ready and I'm hungry. I'll be back!

1900 06 July 89

I'm back, dinner wasn't too bad lamb stew and fresh baked bread. The cooking here is too good. It's a good thing I'm still working out and doing time on the stationary bike or I'd be big as a house! I'm about the same weight as when I left and that was after not working out for a month, so I must have a little more mass now. If Dee gets those boxes I sent home, please let me know. I am kind of anxious to see how long it takes.

Hold on.....Ok, I'm back again. Had to go check the hot tub. I'm putting some more water into it. It's nice to just sit back and relax some nights in there. Haven't been able to do too much star gazing lately with all the clouds and the bad weather. Gotta go do my weather observations now, so I'll close for now.

under 100 days left!

08 July 89

It's now Sunday night and I'm trying to finish this before I send out traffic. Fixed that cable for the other satellite antenna and had to crawl around in the snow and rain to pull the cable back up to the antenna. I really don't care for the roof covered with ice, but at least it's done and working for now. Still have to go back up tomorrow and seal the connectors with sealant, but that won't be too bad.

10 July 89

The Bahia is still staying above water, but is turning slowly and belching out oil/diesel here and there. The railing from the bridge used to be above water, but as she has settled, the rail is now under water. The scientists did a dive around the ship and took some video. The ship is resting on one of its masts. They were describing how eery it sounds as the ship creaks when you are so near to it under the water. The ship is resting on a slope off of DeLaca Island. Only a small portion of the starboard side of the ship shows above the water. Maybe all of a twenty five by fifteen foot section shows during low tide now.

The scientists have reported their findings back to the NSF. I think the National Science Foundation is hashing over now what to do about the ship. Whatever they decide is going to require negotiations with the Argentine government. Too bad their attentions seemed to be drawn away to their staggering economy and another possible war over the Falklands (or Isla Malvinas if you prefer). Guess it isn't enough to get your butt kicked once!

I'm on watch this week, so it's about 2:30 a.m. and I'm just typing out this letter and listening to the British Forces Broadcast on the AM band of the shortwave broadcast from the Falklands. It's the only radio we can pick up fairly strong other than a few South American, Spanish speaking stations. I really should concentrate some efforts to learning Spanish while I'm here.

10 July 89

I really got into a winter slump after Al left for about three weeks, but that changed quite suddenly after this Winter Cruise III got in. Langdon came back down and brought about ten kids from California. They were only on station eight days. The group that is on station now is a different group; more our age. We’ve all seemed to mesh well together. Lots of impromptu partying, dancing and carrying-on. We haven't danced so much since New Year's Eve.

While the Duke was in over the 4th, I did meet Tom Smith. He didn't seem to be as burnt out as when you saw him last year. He is having all of the same problems you had on the Duke with the ship communications, plus some. Al installed Blast onto the Duke's computers and Tom hasn't a clue how to handle it. I don't know why this company insists on dropping people into jobs without the least bit of preparation! So during the few hours that the Duke has been at Palmer, I've tried to give Tom crash lessons on using Blast and the scripts that Al has written up for it. Unfortunately, as usual, the comms on the Duke leave much to be desired. Bobbing up and down in the water like a rubber ducky in a bathtub isn’t exactly conducive to stable signals and stable comms!

By the way, the Duke had to reclaim their Compaq from us about a week before Al left. So he and I spent some grueling hours reloading everything back onto the ITT Xtra's. Duke and Palmer had to send back two Xtra’s to Paramus. But, Al and I got our last laugh. We made sure to replace one of the spare hard drives that was laying around on the shelf into the one we sent back.

Actually, we wanted to verify whether or not it was a functional drive. As it turned out, it was fried. So we left it in and sent it north! They have better facilities to deal with repair and replacement anyway. At least now we have a spare drive on station. We still have three Xtra's on station and I wouldn't stake my career on their dependability.

Guess Tom is going to go to South Pole in Austral Summer for November 89 and work there as a tech. He was also mentioning that they are going to hire three comms operators for South Pole. So I asked him to put in a word for me and maybe come November of 90, I can try for a summer operator position. Only problem might be trying to find out who has the contract.

We had quite a snowstorm here about two weeks ago that dropped about two feet of snow and winds that left five and six foot drifts all over the station. Paths had to be plowed to the pier so that the Duke could lower the stairs. Other than that, the weather has been fairly mild. Temps have been as low as minus 10C and this morning hit plus two C. We are still getting rain and snow mixed, but the snow that is here isn't melting.

I had my ATS 3 transmit Yagi lose its connector. Pulled clean out! As you know, the cold and salt spray really does a number on things here. I ended up having had to climb up on the icy roof to rerun the cable. I repaired the broken end inside then had to feed the repaired end out through the access hole and reach around the end of the roof to pull it up to the antenna for reconnection. I hate climbing on the roof and leaning over the edge. You know how much I hated it when you, Al and I were raising that channel six antenna after the bolt snapped and it crashed down in May.

I started my inventory and I'm sure that it will take forever to finish. I don't think I'm going to screw around with the drawers that have the transistors. If he needs to know what is where, he only needs to look in the inventory book!

Well, that's life in a nutshell (no pun intended) here at beautiful, balmy Palmer Station. We have only another 96 days left...BJ keeps on reminding us! He probably has it counted down to hours at this point. His promise to not shave his beard or cut his hair has him resembling Moses at this point!

14 July 89

Things here are going pretty good so far. I'm on watch all this week, so I've been up till 4:30 a.m. every day and get up at noon. It feels like half of my day is wasted and it's really hard to motivated. I've been working out in the evenings in between watches, so I haven't let that sched get too screwed up. Our satellite time is around 9 p.m., so this late sched works out good for that. I don't think I count the number of hours put in anymore. It is hard when you work and sleep in the same building; you know something needs to get done and you just stay in front of the computer or in the shop. Even during my idle hours, I seem to end up in here!

Winter here hasn't been that bad, more like a mild Chicago winter at this point. The guys that I pass weather conditions to at Faraday (British Antarctic Survey Station), say that this has been the mildest winter on record since the 1950's. The temps haven't been below a minus 11 C and have been staying anywhere from minus two to plus two C. The wind is what makes life difficult here.

Last night was calm at six and forty knot winds at 1 a.m. The night before last was like a dream. I was running my last round at four a.m. and the sky was partly cloudy with the half moon peaking through the clouds and some scattered stars, with the station dead quiet except for the pounding of the station generators. I took a deep breath and the air reminded me of being in the mountains in Colorado skiing cold, crisp and refreshing. It's moments like that I would like to put into a jar and save.

Yes, it does get light here. Since the winter solstice, it is getting progressively lighter. Daylight comes around 9:30 10 a.m. and sunset around 3:30 p.m. So the days are getting longer now. We still don't see the sun over the glacier, but give it a couple of months and it will get over its' shyness. Some of the sunsets have been beautiful with the pinks, oranges and purples. You'll have to see some of the slides that I've taken.

Speaking of skiing, no, I haven't dared to go back up on the glacier skiing yet. Aside from not having the time, I'm not that agile to downhill ski on cross country skis. I may get talked into going back up though. This group of scientists are pretty active and keep everyone busy.

Everyone has since recovered from the party on the fourth, so we are planning a Bastille Day Party for tomorrow night. I know, I know, today is Bastille Day, but we have to work in the morning on Saturday so it works out better to have a party on Saturday night. I won't be able to drink since I'll be on watch, but I'll still have fun. I made up a sign and hung the sign and French flag in the galley. We decided to have the party in the galley for a change. So we'll put up the white Christmas lights and have a fire going for atmosphere. We have a few here who are real entertainment packages in themselves, so parties aren't too boring!

My workouts are progressing well. I've been striving to do more aerobic activity, so I ride the stationary bike every workout day for a half hour minimum. I've been pushing up the resistance lately, but it really wears me out overall. Instead of working a three on one off, I usually work out two days, take a day off and pick up on the third day and first day, then take another day off. It seems to give me enough rest and I still feel like I'm making gains.