Monday, June 27, 2005

Chapter 6 - The Bastille Day Party

The Bastille Day Party - July 15th 1989

Sitting at the bar one night, Lisa, Megan, Cathy, Robin, BJ, Pat, Marcia and I were thinking that now with Fourth of July past, there weren't any real excuses to party. Lisa then remembered that Bastille Day was just around the corner. So it was settled. We would throw a Bastille Day celebration.

So we through a Bastille Day celebration on Saturday night that shook the panels off the building, or was that the wind? Dick Wall, our cook would put together some French Cuisine; I would produce a banner which read Viva Bastille; Cathy and Megan would set the table to include candles, table clothes complete with scalloped napkins and party hats; and Pat would insure that enough firewood was cut. Strings of white Italian lights were strung all around the ceiling in the galley and the galley's pot belly stove had a great fire going to give the galley that certain ambiance. Finally, Lisa would provide the refreshments since she advised us she could make killer Margaritas--appropriately renamed Margarit's for the occasion.

Dinner was to be served at six, so Lisa began her mixing at about five with the punch bowl and a big chunk of bar ice. Carefully and skillfully, she worked on creating the proper blend of alcohol to mixer. By the time six rolled around, Lisa was sure she had the proper mixture....she was speaking from experience since she was pretty lit by this time!

Dinner was nothing short of fantastic! Filet Mignon, Pomm Frites, homemade pasta with shrimp, fresh baked French bread, good red wine and topped off with a tasty chocolate mousse. Of course, there were toasts after dinner with champagne and then dancing. If this isn't roughing it, I don't know what is!

Since I was on watch, I had to restrict my drinking, but still managed to have a good time. As you might expect, since I had watch till 4 a.m., I cleaned up after everyone crashed. The fire was just going out as I headed off for bed.

Robin our maintenance/generator guy provided the entertainment for the evening by blessing our eyes with his ever-famous belly roll. It's something like a belly dance, except with a hairy belly. He just had us in stitches. Dancing around and rolling his belly while being egged on by all of us in the crowd.

For an encore, he was "persuaded" to show Cathy (one of the scientists) his "tattoo". To everyone's surprise, Robin bared his thigh to show off a heart with Cathy's name on it and he was able to move his hip and thigh to make it pump! Till the next morning, Cathy thought the heart was real and the name was only written in, but the whole thing was a set-up. Pat and Robin had drawn in the “tattoo” with magic marker. Too bad we didn't get that show on video! Robin had us all on the floor laughing.

16 July 89 8 p.m.

I have been talking more with Jeannette and Megan, two of the scientists who went to Easter Island on their way down. Trying to get some idea of where to stay, what to make sure to see and everything else. I think that trip will be the highlight of my return trip back north. I just have to decide how long to stay there now.

They both agree that I should at least stay one week. The beach and eucalyptus grove are supposed to be beautiful too. Jeannette worked for the University of Hawaii and had nothing but great things to say about Easter Island--How nice the people were and how unspoiled the island was compared to Hawaii. The islanders are also of Polynesian descent, so there are many similarities.

The island is only about 30 x 15 miles, and even thought it's small, it's as dry as a desert and there aren't many paved roads. I am pretty sure that I'll be doing some traveling with a couple of the people from the station when we get to Chile too, so it's just a matter of arranging my travel schedule with the few flights that do go into Easter Island.

18 July 89

A group of us got out today in the Zodiac again. It was nice to get away from the station even if it is only a mile or so away and for a couple of hours. Saw a couple of lost penguins and a whole den of nasty sounding and smelling elephant seals. Then we went over to Old Palmer Station and checked out the old station and had a look in back to see if the ice cave was still open. All the snow and wind we have had covered the ice cave up.

Froze my fingers and toes, but it was worth it. The sun went away almost as soon as we left the station, but we did manage to get some pictures of the mountains behind Palmer. As you look to the north across the horizon, you can see Mount Williams on Anvers Island, the lower mountains on Weinke (pronounced wink ee) Island and the coastal range on the continent; all covered in snow. It's a sight we don't get to see often since winter has arrived.

Everything else here is going along alright. I had watch all last week and it really set off my schedule. I have a late schedule as it is because my satellite time has slipped later into the night past midnight, but staying up till 4 a.m. and getting up at noon left me with no energy or attitude to do anything! So now I'm getting back to normal again and facing the reality of inventory.

Today we had a leopard seal on the station right by the weather shack. It was a young one, but that is the closest I've come to seeing a leopard seal where I could make out the markings and shape of its head. If you don't know better, it's easy to confuse a leopard seal with a Weddell or Crab eater. Leopard seals heads are shaped differently and come more to a point at the snout. In the water, they are stealthy hunters and live up to their name. During the summer season, we had seen several leopard seals capture penguins in the water and shake them out of their skins. I hope the pictures turn out clear enough.

22 July 89

......Just heard about that United DC-10 that went down over Sioux City. Can't believe that anyone lived through all that!

We have been having snow and minimum 25 knot winds constant now for three days. As soon as we shovel out, it snows and blows more. We are walking on the railings again when going between the Bio and GWR buildings since the snow keeps burying portions of the deck. We had a break for three hours this afternoon, and then it started up again. It must seem funny to hear how bad the snow and winter are here when you're in the middle of summer with temps in the 80's and 90's. I hear that your weather hasn't been as hot as last year though.

The scientists gave a presentation on Copepods and had shown us slides. Pretty interesting. These little guys are like the size of brine shrimp and smaller and are fed upon by the whales and other creatures of the deep. Then Meagan and Jeannette, the two who went to Easter Island showed us their slides. Really beautiful with a certain intrigue attached to it. I still had a few slides of the Bahia Paraiso that I didn't send home, so I pulled them out along with some slides taken over the last few months.

A lot of the people in these slides from last season will be back in October. It will kind of be like old home week once they get here. My old supervisor, Al will be back too. He did manage to send a marsgram to us here last week. He is still traveling in South America--since the beginning of June. He went through parts of Chile and the Lakes Region in Argentina, then up to Ecuador. He is in a Spanish school in Quito living with a family and learning the language.

I'm in the middle of wrestling with the satellite at the moment. The past week has been noisy and difficult to keep the connection. I don't think these winds help matters at all the way they push around the antennas. Talking of problems from the weather, we are currently having problems with an iceberg over our seawater intake now. Unlike in the summer, we have the freshwater melt pond to draw water from. But now, we have to rely on the desalinization units and reverse osmosis from water drawn from the seawater intake.

This big old piece of bar ice is dropping all kinds of silt into the system and clogging up the works, so we are trying to conserve water until it moves permanently. It not only provides water for our desalinization units, but also for the scientist's fish and copepods (and for refilling the hot tub---um, therapeutic bath!!) If the scientists aquarium tanks don't get fresh seawater, the specimens will die. Specimen mortality isn't an issue yet, but we will have to conserve water until the berg moves.

The berg moved when the wind shifted today, but came back tonight with the storms resurgence. The glacier hasn't calved too much lately either. The chunk over the intake is probably fifty feet by fifty feet (the part above water), but 90 percent of an iceberg is under water. To give you an idea how deep this berg sits, put an ice cube in a glass of fluid and imagine the area you see on top of the ice cube to be 50 x 50 feet. By looking under the surface, you can better understand how deep an iceberg sits in the water. So this little iceberg is doing a dance on our water intake and probably smashing the pipe like a smashed down straw.

26 July 89

I started a letter a few days ago to you, but things got pretty hectic and I never finished it. Things here have been busy. I had trouble getting traffic out on the satellite the past four days. I could bring stuff in, but couldn't send anything out. Some of the scientists get a bit worried when they can’t get data and correspondence off to their counterparts back stateside. They have such a short stint here in the Antarctic that they really depend on our ability to transmit and receive all their info in a quick manner. From our standpoint, we really miss getting in the news on a regular basis. I pull down the latest news stories and print it out for everyone to read when they’re in the galley. So finally yesterday, I got everything out. I had quite a backlog, but put in the extra time and sent it out all at once.

Had an antenna bracket come loose on Sunday. So I went up on the roof with another guy, tilted the antenna and put a new bolt in. Normally, this is just a five minute job, but the wind was blowing at 50 knots and temperatures at about a minus 3 degrees C, the wind chill was bad. My fingers were numb within minutes, but it's done fixed.

The scientists did us a favor and performed a dive down by the seawater intake to scope out the damage from the iceberg. They ended up removing the end portion of pipe. The last four feet of the pipe was smashed down almost flat from the berg dancing on it. The intake is still far enough below the surface that it won't draw in bad water or garbage. Bilge is released on the Hero Inlet side and the seawater intake is on the Loudwater Cove side of the station, so it shouldn’t be an issue. At least now we won't have to worry about our water usage so much.

Within the next two weeks, this group of scientists will leave. It's hard to believe it's almost August. I'll be sad to see them go...this group has really been a lot of fun. We received a tentative schedule this week to leave here on the 14th of October. Another 2-1/2 months to go. We will start to make travel arrangements in another month.

We have had two beautiful days of clear cold weather. We have been able to see the mountains again for the first time in months. There is some grease ice coming into the harbor now, so parts of the harbor may freeze over yet. The stars were out in full force last night, so got a nice look at the Southern Cross and the Milky Way.

26 July 89

It was really great to talk to you on Saturday. For once I didn't wake you up and we had a chance to talk. The weather over the past couple of days has been cool. Today, the scientists on station insisted that we needed a group photo, so Tom, our station manager pulled out the Caterpiller and we had our picture with all of us on the Cat with the mountains in the background. The sun was bright for a change and the sky was pretty clear too. Tom and Robin have been clearing snow for the past two days after the storms we have had.

I'm still working on inventory now, but it is tedious and puts me right to sleep. I've got the rest of the winter to finish it, but I need to spend like a couple weeks straight on it and just get it out of my hair! Aside from the normal weekly reports to be written, inventory and satellite woes; everything else is going well.

We just had the most beautiful sunset today. I took about a dozen pictures and will send some out the beginning of August. I have a couple of other pictures taken of me with the beard that I'll send out too. Debi got a real kick out of the last one I sent with my beard. This beard is a little longer, and I've had it for a few months now. A lot of blonde and red like my mustache. I'm going to shave it before I leave though, since I don't want my tan to be uneven on my face when I go to Easter Island! Besides, you get hassled in South America if you have a beard going through the airport and customs.