Friday, July 08, 2005

Chapter 15 - Vacation Dreaming and Planning

Dear Lisa, 25 January 90

I know, long time no hear. I have been wanting to write letters, but never seem to have the urge. Just got a marsgram from Dennis last week. Also received a postcard from Pat when he was in Chiloe. I'm working on catching up on letters, finally (just as it is time to leave!)

It has really been a kick to be able to stay on this long. Working with Al has been great. Last year he and I never saw eye to eye on anything and this year is just the opposite. The people this season are great too. Bob Taylor says to say hello for him. He will be staying until station close in April. I just found out last week that I will get to leave on the first SAAM flight on the 16th March. I believe that you are coming in on that one, aren't you? Well, maybe we will be able to at least say hello in passing. I was hoping to have the chance to tip a glass or three with you, but I'll have to pass--big plans in greener places.

Right now, I'm planning on passing thru Puerto Montt for a day to finish the shopping I didn't get done in October when I was there with Dennis, Marcia and Robin. I am still planning on going on to Easter Island, but am not sure how long my stay will be. I am also going to go to Guatemala for a week or so. It probably sounds strange, but I should explain.

Last year during the tourist season we were invited out to the Illiria twice. I got to talking to one of the tour guides who was Dutch and we started writing letters back and forth over the last year. He ended up taking a job in October or November in Guatemala working for a new hotel in the Petan area, doing botany studies. He is a botanist by degree, but also works on the tour ships when he can break away from his job in Holland. He will be going back to Guatemala in March, so I am going to visit him and have a look at the Mayan ruins and experience some of the jungle. Sounds like a change of pace from Palmer doesn't it?

The weather here has been beautiful the past couple of days. Last week was all rain, but the temps have still remained comfortable. We have had days up to 47 F and no colder than 32 F. The glacier has been calving a lot and with all this warmer weather has been rumbling all the time. Had three humpbacks in the back bay area and just about 100 feet off of Gamage Point on the side of the station. They have been coming around more often now. No “cocopods” though.

Spoke with Robin last week. Andy Deering and Lisa are going to winter-over and were trying to get Robin to come back down for some of the winter. But word came down from his wife (aka "the wicked witch of the North" by Robin's definition if you remember) that he wouldn't be down this season ("or ever" was probably inferred). He is on the North Slope now and only has to be away from her a couple of months at a time--she isn't about to let him go off to Antarctica again to drink, or carry on with female-scientist-type friends.

Haven't heard from anyone else aside from occasional marsgrams from Dennis. Guess Marcia is still traveling around the southern hemisphere. Ned left in November amid much cursing while he was packing up until the last minute! Are you taking bets on whether or not he comes back? Richie will still be here when you get here and will be until probably June or so.

Bet you're getting anxious already to get back down here, huh? Better bring your own Campari--we didn't get any. Have a Ritamarga for me la Buge, I'll leave a chunk of bar-ice in the punchbowl for ya!


This next letter was sent to one of the Argentine guys I met from the Bahia Paraiso. With as poor as the Argentine economy and post office have been as of late, I never had any confirmation as to whether this letter actually arrived.

Dear Gustavo, 27 January 90

Haven't heard from you at all since last year! It is hard to believe that it has already been a year since the Bahia went down. Hope all is well with you. Manuel was here on the Gurachaga (I'm not sure of the spelling) and let me know that you are now stationed down south near Bahia Blanca. He said that Julio just got married the end of December and that Pablo is now working in a higher position. It is good to know that everyone is doing ok after everything that has happened with the ship and with your countries economy. From everything we read I hope things will get better for you. It sounds like it is very difficult to make a living and still live well.

I have been a little disappointed that you haven't written, but I understand how your postal system is. If you have written, it may have been lost. It may help to send letters to the Argentine Antarctic center in Buenos Aires and have someone carry it down to Palmer to be hand carried north to the U.S. Viviana Alder and Gustavo Ferrer from the Argentine Antarctic Institute are going to be coming down to Palmer in March and I should see them before I leave. Unfortunately, I will be leaving Palmer Station in late March, but there are enough people here who know me that can forward a letter on to me if you send one in March.

I was hoping to visit you in Buenos Aires, but I am going to only be stopping in Guatemala before heading home at the end of March. I have so much to do when I get home since I have decided to go back to college in June. I have decided to study Electrical Engineering and try to learn more in the communications field. So I have a mountain of paperwork to fill out once I get home to go back to school.

I am going to close this letter for now, because I am not sure when the crew is heading back to the ship. Take care and remember that I haven't forgotten about you. Hope to hear from you sometime in the future.
Your friend,

26 January 90

I am starting to wind down and get psyched up to leave. I am enjoying the job more this season than during last summer and feel that I am learning a lot too. But I am starting to get anxious about leaving. I haven't that many days left to go either.

The weather has been pretty nice here lately. Today is kind of overcast, but the temps are comfortable at around 40 during the day. Yesterday we hit 47 again and it was sunny and clear. The glacier has making a lot of noise lately and we have had some beautiful views of ice falling off the glacier. It is too bad that pictures can't catch the view or the sounds the way seeing it live does.

Last night right before I spoke with you I got to see a phenomenon we don't see in the Midwest. I saw a green flash at sunset. It happens when the sun is setting over water and something happens where the reflection of the suns rays and the curvature of the earth cause a reflection of green light to appear (or some garbage like that). I've heard all about it from people who have seen it at McMurdo, but never saw it for myself until now.

28 January 90

We have a tour ship in tonight which will sit out in the harbor until after breakfast tomorrow morning. Then we have a contracted ship coming in on the 29th and bringing mail too. It seems like a long time since we last had mail, but it has only been three weeks. I am anxious to get that envelope of letters that Dee sent me with Christmas cards and letters that were sent to “Naperdale.” Hans said he had also sent me a letter from Mexico City before he left for Guatemala back in early November, but I still haven't seen that either. His and my letters have seemed to require a lot of forwarding before we receive them.

You were asking about pictures. I will have plenty of slides when I get back. Since we can develop E-6 (slide film) I have taken all slides, then later will have the better slides made into photos so I can put together an album. We will have to get everyone together and have a slide show sometime after I get the slides into trays. I sent most of my slides home in retrograded boxes, so I'll have to dig thru everything when I finally get back. I also have two three hour videos that give a good idea of the station, the wildlife, and the people here. We can fast forward thru some of it, but the video covers from about last June until now. I hear that there is some footage of my haircut too that I have to get on the tape too.

We had another great dinner last night. A restaurant was set up complete with waiting area and cocktails. A whole crew of cooks, waiters etc volunteered their time and effort for this dinner, so the cook got to take his comp-day for Christmas. People really go all out when they get the chance to cook here. Anyone who came down here with any intention of losing weight is certainly doomed! Sundays are the cooks off day too, so we normally have volunteers cook then too. Polly (the National Science Foundation Rep) and I cooked about two weekends ago and did spaghetti and garlic bread. Good thing we started the sauce the night before. For dessert we made angel food cake with strawberry and whipped cream filling (3layer). We pulled out the red and white checkered table clothes and the candles too.

28 January 90

January is almost over. The time is flying by for me and I have a good idea now when I am leaving Palmer. Looks like I will get out on the first SAAM (C-130) flight from Marsh Base, King George Island on March 17.

29 January 90

I'm back. I took a break from writing yesterday to workout, and never got back to the letter. As you can see, I have still been working out. I have been keeping a better schedule now and haven't been blowing it off like I was during the winter. I think I feel a lot better when I keep working out.

The Illiria did come in early last night and most of us did go out and spend time on the ship. What a time! Spoke more with Hans, and I think he will meet me in Flores. That will make things a little easier since I don't speak any Spanish. I have my dictionary though and managed in Chile very well with that. So they are here and gone. The tourists visited the station this morning from about 0730 until 0930 and then pulled up anchor. I think the tourists had as much fun visiting with us as we did with them. We were familiar faces after visiting the ship the night before. There was a big group from the Natural History group. Natural History is a nature type magazine and they sponsor trips all over to see wildlife and that type of thing.

Forgot to mention that we did have three humpback whales in the harbor last weekend. They were only about 100 feet off the pier and stayed in the harbor for awhile. No flukes, but they were feeding and sounded and came to the surface often. That was the closest to the station I have seen them.

You were asking about the constant, or near constant light. I think you just adjust to the light and pull the curtains. It isn't actually that hard to adjust to. It has already started to get "dark" now or dark enough that I can't clearly see the glacier across the bay when it calves. We have been having some overcast nights, and even though it doesn't get pitch black out, it is dark by our perception. We have had some beautiful sunsets, and they are getting noticeably earlier every week. About a month ago, our sunsets seemed to be around 11 P.M. to 11:30. Now they are around 10 P.M. to 10:30.

I have to get back to work because lunch is over, but take care and hope you do well in the contest. At least in a natural bodybuilding contest you don't have to worry about "ugly encounters with the steroid woman"! Sounds like a sci-fi flick!!

Dear Dennis, 31 January 90

Good to receive your marsgram. You're right; it has been awhile since I last heard from you. Hope you're enjoying your new computer now.

Things on the station seem to be going well this season. You probably wouldn't believe how well Al and I are getting along this season. It has been a busy season with the reskinning of Biolab. We have had to move cables all over the place and have run a bunch under the building now. It has kept me out of trouble.

Looks like winter-over crew is going to be Al Oxton, Andy Deering, Lisa Radke, Beav (Andy's brother who is over on McMurdo side now), Sarah Sturgess, and Dave Mobley (who will be here only until June). I don't think Ned will be back. From what I understand, it is a full crew already for this winter. The materials guy is a guy that Dwaine and Brenda know from Pole and McMurdo. Lisa's slot as winter-over admin hasn't been approved yet, but it looks like it will be at this point. If it isn't, they will be looking for a station manager and a power plant mechanic!

Andy first called Robin on the North Slope to see if he was interested in taking the Power Plant job. Robin said that he would speak to his wife about it. The next day his wife called Andy back and (probably gave him a death threat!) said that Robin was not interested (probably also said, not now or ever!).

Marian received a letter and a shirt from New Zealand. Marcia sent her a shirt around the 15th of December and Marian got it this month. Marcia said that she may lose her thumbnail for life but she has to have some minor surgery when she gets back stateside. It must have really been mashed up. ANS will pay for the surgery, so at least she is getting something out of them. The letter also said that she would be in Australia until the end of January.

My life without Ned has been great. I never realized how nice it could be with him away. I miss having his insulting comments at me like I miss being seasick on the Duke. It's also great to be in the gym without that constant noise of him slapping around that punching balloon.

I have heard rumors of his returning, but with Al's friend on the front burner as Dave's replacement it doesn't seem too likely. Dave has really made a lot of headway with the job.

You should almost be a short timer with your Navy assignment by this time too. Don't miss us all here, because it doesn't change that much here and soon we will be where you are again. Take it easy, and hope to hear from you.
Your friend,

05 February 90

Got in a bunch of mail on Friday and Saturday. The biggest part of the mail wasn't found in the containers until Saturday, but it felt great to get something. Now I have to write all these people and tell them not to write anything more to this address. With so few ships scheduled down over the next 1-1/2 months, I would prefer if people from here on just wrote to our address at home. Boy, it's hard to believe that I will be leaving here in a little over a month.

The weather over the past week has been garbage. Lots of rain and overcast skies. The glacier has been calving so often now, we tend not to pay attention to it when it does make noise. Today I happened to be looking out the window and watched a side about as big as the section of building we live in just drop down into the water! It made a huge wave that crashed over a peninsula across the bay.

06 February 1990

The Erebus pulled up to the pier today and will load containers in preparation for departure to Punta Arenas. They came in to move fuel out of a bladder at Old Palmer Station and to start a clean up of O.P. The National Science Foundation has decided that over the next two years they will dismantle O.P. and clean up the old site. So this ship was contracted to come down. They brought us down our mail and freshies. It is great to eat fresh lettuce again. The tomatoes were great as were the peaches! As much fruit and veggies as I ate before I came down, it is a minor miracle that I'm still alive now after being cut off from them. It will be nice to walk into a store and pick up a banana or lettuce or cucumber--anytime I want to!

I just received the envelope you sent to the office with those letters. Thanks for the Christmas card and picture of Kristina. I liked the card...was it for this year or last? Just kidding! I was surprised to get the other letter from the Soviet Union. You must have been a bit surprised to see that one too. I just received a marsgram from the guy who sent the other letter you had in that envelope. In all, it was quite a mail haul this time around. I should be kept busy writing until I leave!

03 February 90

Two weeks ago, we had three whales in our harbor. We haven't seen them this close to the station before as they were just off Gamage Point.

The weather here during the whole month of January was great. The glacier is calving a lot now with the warm weather. At times, it is so loud, you would think it is thundering out. Last month, we had five days of over 8 degrees Celsius. We are sure now that the summer is here.

08 February 90

Today the weather is garbage again! The whole day has been only wind and rain. Who could believe that we are in Antarctica with all the rain we have been having?

My sister sent me a letter from the U.S.S.R that arrived at the house. It was from the communications officer from the tourist ship, Antonina Nezdranova which visited Palmer last year. He and I got to speak for about two hours over shots of Dutch gin. It was a nice visit and I learned a little bit about him and his country.

04 February 90

Dear Hans,

As I write this letter, we are having strong winds shaking the walls. The wind has been gusting up to 45 knots and above. It is actually the first wind storm we have had this summer that I can remember. I finally received your letter this week. It was great to read all about what you were doing and will continue to do when you go back to Guatemala. I'm glad I am able to arrange a stop to visit you, and that you have extended the invitation for me to visit. It should be different to spend some time in a quiet place and in such a different atmosphere than what I have lived with over the past 1-1/2 years.

You asked how it was over the winter here with so few people. It is probably different with us, because we all come from different backgrounds. It isn't quite the closed community you have in the local village there in Guatemala. Although we also have only the weather and our jobs to complain about in the winter, we also had our diverse pasts to share with one another. We were actually only nine people for about three weeks until the winter scientists had come in. Then it varied how many people were on station depending on which groups went out on the Polar Duke to do science. That group left at the end of July and then the Polar Duke brought in three more for the remainder of the season from the beginning of September until station open on the sixth of October. So there was some outside stimulus during the winter-over this year.

06 Feb 90

Heard the Illiria up today on the radio, channel 16. Darrel was speaking with Faraday and sounds like he was trying to find your ship a way in to visit Faraday. Don't think it worked today, but from what I hear there may still be a chance on your last cruise or so.