Thursday, July 07, 2005

Chapter 14 - Tourist Season

11 December 89

Yesterday the German research vessel, Polar Stern came in. What a ship!! Got the grand tour of the ship and the thing is a floating city; complete with a swimming pool inside! Compared to the Polar Duke, this ship doesn't even move on the water when it’s anchored. They came in with representatives from the German and French Antarctic Programs for an inspection of Palmer. The treaty nations inspect one another randomly to make sure that we and other stations are complying with the rules set forth by the treaty agreement. So they performed their inspection; then we had them over for dinner; then they had us out to the ship for a cocktail party. It was a great social gathering! Drinks were free and the Champaign was flowing---What more can you ask for!?

Had the chance to use my German more than at any time in the last two years. I've lost some of my vocabulary and my grammar is rusty, but it starts to come back once you get warmed up. There is another guy on the station who lived and studied in Germany, so he and I got a workout on our German.

There was a woman from ZDF Germany (North German Radio and TV) who wanted to interview a few of us from Palmer Station. She insisted that since my German was so good, my interview should be conducted with her in German. I was a bit nervous, but it was kind of fun. She asked questions about how our life was at Palmer; job, food, weather, things like that. She said that it would play on German radio around the New Year holiday.

13 December 89

Got your letter this week, so I thought I'd send off another quick one before you get out of Indiana. You should have received my other letter and the disks I sent along to you.

......You were asking about the haircut. We raised about $320 for the March of Dimes, and the people on station were our sponsors. We sent the money off with the last ship that went out. It was a great time and my hair is already growing in pretty thick by now.

Temps here have been anywhere from 32 to 45 degrees F. Normally it doesn't get too much warmer than that, but last year we did get some summer temps in the low fifties in late February. It is snowing now since last night, but nothing is staying on the ground because it is too warm. At least it isn't raining.

14 December 89

Yesterday we rerouted a bunch of antenna cable and I was crawling around under the building most of the afternoon. There is still a lot of ice underneath the buildings in spite of the nice temps. We have been seeing a lot of snow over the past two days, but no accumulation. King George Island received about two feet of snow!

We have a panel crew pulling off old wall panels and reskinning the building, so the nice weather has helped them out. Al, my supervisor, and I have been preparing the comm center for the reskinning. We have had to pull off everything from bulletin boards, old paneling and all kinds of antenna cables that come through the middle of the wall.

The Polar Duke left Punta Arenas yesterday, so hopefully I will have a few letters from home and from Europe. My sister Dee sent me a group of letters that arrived at home, but I don't think they made it on this trip with as late as they were mailed out. We should see some mail when the tourist ships start to come in again in January. They will usually bring in mail and some freshies for us.

Dear Jeannette, Cathy and Pat, 15 December 89

Sorry I have taken so long to respond to your message. It was great to hear all of you and Lisa Crocket over the ATS a few weeks back. I was trying to explain the Bastille Day party to a few people here, but it is one of those situations where you just had to be there! Speaking of Bull Elephant seals; we have quite the gathering here on the dock and on the rocks by the pump house. They have taken over the place!

I'm glad that I've had the chance to stay longer. This group is great this year. Lots going on with the building being reskinned. Al and I have been going crazy getting everything ready for our walls to be removed. There isn't a lot of science going on yet, but that is partially due to the two SAAM flights getting cancelled. We were all sorry to miss Peter Wilknis and all the other DV's (about as much as missing case of the runs!)

Ned left on the last ship out. He was going to stay on the ship after the SAAM flight left, but as you heard, the SAAM flights got cancelled. He is planning to study Spanish in Ecuador, like Al did for six weeks or so. No telling when he will get back to "Long-a" Island, but I'm sure you'll all hear from him there at SUNY when he gets back. I think he will have the same homesick feelings for Antarctica as everyone else seems to get.

Looks like our weather is better than yours now. We have been having temps anywhere from 32 to 45 degrees. Had some snow the past couple of days, but only flurries and nothing that stuck. Most of the snow is finally melted too. Craig - Dave Ainley's assistant got to fly over Dream Island in a helo from the Polar Stern when they visited last week. Guess the snow didn't melt fast enough and many of the penguins abandoned their nests after their eggs froze. Dave was here earlier and he and Craig had been over to Dream Island. They had predicted then that there would be a high mortality rate for this group partly due to the snow cover even back when they were here around October.

16 December 89

The Duke is going to be a little late coming in, but only about twelve hours off. I am hoping that maybe the envelope of letters you sent made this ship. It would be nice to hear from some of the people you only hear from once a year. I will try to call next weekend, but you know how difficult it can be to get calls through to the States during the holidays.

We have been moving many antenna cables from the outside wall and rerouting them to come under the floor. I'm still working on learning Dbase III, but need to spend more time on it. I think I may wait until we get our new computer in and then I can do it in our shop without bothering anyone else.

I can't believe it is already the week before Christmas. I don't know where the time goes to. I still get confused over what month is it down here! Two nights ago, we had a spectacular sunset. I had gone to bed around 9:30 p.m. and woke up about 11:30 p.m. and the glacier was orange from the reflection. It was like waking up in a dream. The sky just glowed orange, purple, pink and blue and the glacier and the remaining snow we still have were glowing.

I think that I already said that during this time of the year, the sun goes down around 1-1:30 a.m. but the sky stays fairly light throughout the "night" until sunrise at around 3-3:30 a.m. This week, we will have the longest day of the year on the 21st, but that won't change the length of the days very much here. We probably won't notice any actual darkness again until March sometime.

Wish everyone a Merry Christmas for me and have a Merry Christmas yourself!

02 January 90

I miss being there with everyone over the holidays, but I had a good time here too. The weather was nice and we had a yacht come in on New Years Eve. The Damien II was in last year around the same time. They had three kids and two National Geographic guys onboard. It is strange to see kids again after not seeing them for so long.

The weather is nice out and the glacier has been noisy. Our first tour ship comes in on Thursday. Hopefully, I will get some mail on it, but we're not sure yet. I didn't get too much this last time. Guess I should expect it. The novelty has worn off and people forget your address when they haven't seen you in awhile.

You shouldn't be so shocked about my haircut. We raised money for the March of Dimes and had a great time too. Nothing is really out of the norm here! You should know by now that to keep your sanity you have to be a little crazy every once in awhile. It ain't no beauty contest here, no matter what you've heard! The other advantage is that I won't need it cut now until I get to Punta Arenas. There have been women at South Pole on winter-over that have shaven their heads too!

06 January 90

Been keeping busy over the past couple of weeks with the building panel project. Seems like as soon as we get things in order in one spot, they come up with something else that needs to be moved. Next week the roof on this wing comes off. "It just goes to show you, if it's not one thing, it's another."

We lived through our first tour ship of the season this week. It isn't that bad, but it does disrupt the station. Some old geezer made a crack about one of our antenna riggers standing up on the balcony and not working. We were on break at the time, but no one explained that to him. If he was so worried about his tax dollars, he shouldn't have even come ashore. The tourists waste our time and "his" tax dollars by disrupting the whole station and require our people entertain them. It isn't enough that we have to work six day weeks and don't get most of the national holidays off. Stupid old fart.

We have also had visits from two yachts over the past week. Jacques Cousteau is supposed to be making a stop here in his ship the Erebus with a child from every continent sometime this week or early next week. That should be interesting. Next week we will be getting mail and some freshies in on one of the tour ships, the Illiria. Last year we were invited out to the Illiria twice. They had a floorshow of Greek dancing and lots of ouzo. We had a great time. Hopefully, since they are bringing down three people on the ship, we will have the chance to get out to this ship again.

The weather here is kinda overcast, but still mild. We haven't had too much rain or snow lately, just a lot of clouds. The temps have been staying between 32 and 40 most of the time. It sounds like your weather has warmed up a little from the cold snap you had over Christmas.

So how was Christmas and New Years? It went well here. We had a great New Years party and for the first time since Halloween, DANCING. Yes, it was quite unbelievable for us too. Guess no one has been in any mood to let loose in awhile. The mood was quiet until the decorations were broken out around 10 PM. Had a great time and drank my share of Champaign. Started out on ice water and shots of Grants scotch and graduated to Champaign after midnight.

07 January 90

Well, I'm back. Took a break from writing yesterday and didn't get back to it. The divers went out to the Bahia Paraiso this morning and pulled up another helicopter wheel and assorted parts that broke away from the two Sea Kings helicopters that were onboard. Garbage has been floating up and falling off of the ship during the whole year and people bring it in when they see it.

Had a great meal last night. Bob had swordfish steaks on the grill and made up a great clam casino to go with it. It is really rough to have such a great cook here! It snowed for about two hours last night too, but no accumulation.

Was just looking at the calendar yesterday and realized I have only another 90 days before I leave here. The time since October has gone fast. Seems like only last week since I was in Chile. I have been getting more anxious to get back since about Christmas. But things are going great here and I know the rest of the time will go quick. Looking forward to getting back and seeing all of you again.

15 January 90

The weather has been pretty nice. Normally, the temperatures should be around 0 Celsius, but this last week we had one day that was +8.3 C. We have been having more rain lately, but a few snowflakes here and there at times.

Not so many whales this year as last, but many penguins and elephant seals. As always in the austral summer, long days and a lot of light. Now it is light until about 1:30 a.m. and then the sun comes back up at 3:30 a.m. Between these hours it really doesn't get dark.

19 January 90

I just received your Christmas card last week. The World Discoverer brought in two big boxes of mail, so I got most of my Christmas mail then. The pictures you sent were great. I know you haven't had much chance to do anything, so if you don't get to any of the things I asked for, it can wait. I'll be home in another two months anyway.

I am going to try to get out on a SAAM flight out of Marsh Base at the end of March. That will put me home before Easter. I would like to be home for the Easter holiday. If I don't get out then, I will be spending Easter in Chile. I will let you know how things are going when I know myself. Even if I get to go out on the SAAM flight, it doesn't guarantee the flight schedule. The last SAAM flights that were supposed to come to Marsh were cancelled and backed up scientists coming to Palmer by almost two weeks.

I am looking forward to Easter Island and I have to do a little more shopping in Puerto Montt. So we will see how my schedule goes.

I am looking forward to traveling in Chile again. You would love Chile. The people are really great and friendly. I never felt like they were trying to take advantage of me. If anything, they were very patient with me stumbling through Spanish with the dictionary. The Chilenos seem very welcoming and friendly and the crime rate is probably the lowest in all of South America, maybe even better than in a lot of places in the States! If I were studying Spanish and had a choice of studying in Spain or any other South American country, it would be Chile in a heartbeat.

The weather here today has been shitty. This isn't a marsgram, so I can say that! It has been rainy since last night. But at least the temps have been nice. It is probably averaging around 35-40 degrees F. Last week we hit 47 again for the second time this month. The glacier has been calving more often with all the warm weather. It almost sounds like thunder as the calving ice breaks off and falls into the harbor behind us.