Saturday, July 23, 2005

Back to the 'Burbs

I made it back in time for Christmas 1990. The SAAM flight went out without a hitch from King George Island. It's funny how I spent five years in the military and never flew on a military C-130 until I went down to Antarctica.

I got myself a job just after the Christmas holiday and started on January 28th, 1991. I am still homesick for Antarctica, but am resolved not to go back under the current company holding the contract. Besides, it is time to settle down into the real world and get a life.

To: Rich Skane (aka, Armando Stiletto)
Palmer Station, Antarctica
From: Dave Gallas, Naperville, IL
March 21, 1991

Hola Amigo!!
Here it is, already the 21st of March; skies blue, weather in the big city is fantastic and me stuck inside on the 24th floor, looking down at the wonderful south side of Chicago. Took a walk down to the lakefront at lunch to enjoy the weather and the water. I miss living near the water.

I'm catching on to the job fairly quick and really enjoy the people that I'm working with. The only sticking point is the solvency of the corporation at this point.

Don't know if Al told you anything about my new job, but I started at the end of January working for a company called Infotron. It is a wide area network company out of New Jersey. I worked with their equipment when I was at MCI before coming down to the Ice, so I had an "in" so to speak.

The biggest drag is probably driving into the city everyday from Naperville. If I get caught in rush hour traffic, it takes a minimum of 1-1/2 hours. Not anything like the ol’ Antarctic-roll-outta-bed-and-into-the-shop five minute commute.

As crazy as it sounds, I really enjoy working in the city. After Antarctica, it is a kind of fun to get lost in the thousands of people in the city. The hustle and bustle of the city is a lot of fun, but there is no way I could ever live down here---I'm just a suburbanite at heart. Take care and write back soon.

Suburbanly yours,

Friday, July 22, 2005

Chapter 21 - End of Season, End of Contract

29 November 90

Long time no hear! Hope everything is going well for you. Al got a letter from “Risa” who gave us your current mailing address. She mentioned something or another about sand pouring out of the envelope. I guess that should leave no doubts as to your current location! From Antarctica to Kuwait; Antarctica had never looked so good as it does now, eh?

Got a letter from Marcia a couple of weeks ago. She has just moved to Utah and dropped me a marsgram right as she was on her way. I don't have an address right now, so I imagine that she is having the post office forward things. She found a job working with the postal system, so she sounds happy. I saw Pat Sullivan the day before I left to come back down. He's working back on the commodities market and somewhat happy. Have you heard from anyone else lately?

Alison is still sending letters to Palmer and keeping us up to date with her movements. In her latest letters, she took a cruise thru the Panama Canal and is spending time in South America again. She has or is starting up an import business in Alaska. She will be down in Punta during the time I head north, so I've got to contact her through an address she left and hopefully will run into her.

From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Les, Peninsula Operations

Hello Les, 29 November 90

Bob advised me that in speaking with him today you had mentioned that there was an opening at South Pole for a Comms person. Can I have more information on the position and the time period this would cover? I have heard that they are short people now during the summer season and had sent a letter to Eric inquiring about positions, but Bob was saying that they are looking to fill a winter position.

If you could, send me more info that I may be able to consider the possibilities. Either way, there would be some things at home that I would have to take care of at home before a more solid decision could be made. Thanks much and I'll be in contact with you.


From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Eric, South Pole Antarctica

Eric, 01 December 90

Good to talk with you again. I wasn't sure whether you were still needing people or what positions may be open and figured that it was worth asking. I'm not sure how much information you want about what I'm presently doing here at Palmer, but I'll give you a rundown on some of the job.

I have worked communications positions at Palmer since October 1988. After my first winter-over, I took two weeks R&R on the Polar Duke, five days in Chile and came back down for the following summer season. I left in March of 1990, started back to school and then came back down to Palmer in October of this year for an interim period to fill in until the new Comms Tech arrives on the M/V Erebus on the seventh of December. I have been working with Al Oxton since November of 1988.

Processing the traffic here involves extracting files mailed to the LAN system or disk and loading them into a file to be sent to the VAX in Florida. Personal computers are used in all of the work areas here including our interface with the ATS-3 system. When I first arrived at Palmer, we were using Crosstalk or ProComm with Kermit to accomplish our daily exchanges with Malabar. I have seen the advent of Blast and have used it when manual commands were required. Since that time, Al has automated much of the Blast process with script files and macros.

Daily radio communications include the remote sites at Livingston Island and Lenny Station, King George Island, boating operations with the local field parties and with the R/V Polar Duke. Radio comms are maintained with aircraft in the area and with Marsh Base concerning aircraft schedules and weather information at their request. Comms at Palmer is responsible for performing the weather obs. Weather obs are passed three times daily with the British Antarctic Survey station at Faraday.

Telex, facsimile and Marisat private line are heavily used by the science community, tour ship companies and by ASA Denver.

If there is any other information you require, please don't hesitate to contact me by HF or by e-mail.

Dave Gallas

03 December 90

Summer finally looks like it's on the way here. There is more snow now than any of the other two summers I can remember, but the weather is getting a little warmer now. It's snowing lightly now and the wind picked up some. The harbor was socked in again with ice for about a week. There were also a couple of large icebergs coming in close too, but they got snagged up on some low rocks and couldn't come in any closer. Station population is up to 38 now after two weeks of only 19 people. Next week the population will be up to 55 and they will have people sleeping in tents because there are only enough beds for 45. The Antarctic Delegation that met in Santiago is also coming down for a visit. That should be interesting, huh?

The Argentines have arrived in the harbor to dive on the wreck of the Bahia Paraiso. They timed it perfectly so that the Delegation will arrive and see them here doing "something" with the wreck. In reality, they haven't done squat to try to remove any part of it or investigate possibilities of recovery of any sort right from the beginning!! These political things are so much bunk.

I am really glad that I was able to come back down. I have learned a lot of new things and it is great to have a computer at my fingertips again. I have seen a lot of familiar faces too. I just hope the job market back home is better than when I left.

Sounds like things in the Gulf are at a standstill right now. The medical corpsman that was down here my first year and winter-over is now over there. He is sitting on a ship in the Gulf somewhere and waiting. I've got a letter started to him, but haven't mailed it yet. He sent Lisa, our old admin assistant a letter and it had sand in it, so we could pretty much guess where he was!

I hear now that Argentina has had yet another coupe attempt. And Bush is still insisting on going there. I used to keep contacts with a couple of people I knew/met from the Bahia Paraiso, but the mail system is so poor in Argentina that one scientist who writes her family still there said that only one of five letters make it through.

05 December 90

You can't believe how anxious I am to get back home. It will be great to spend Christmas at home again. The last time I had that luxury was three years ago! It is really important to spend the holidays with your friends and family. I keep thinking about how much I want to go through Clarendon Hills again on Christmas Eve and look at the luminaries that line the curvy streets of the south side of town and burn all night. It's really beautiful if you've never seen it. I'm also anxious to set up a real tree and pull out the tree decorations that I haven't used or seen for years. Bought a lot of them in Germany. I miss the smell of a real tree, especially since there aren't any around here.

Got a haircut last night and decided to shave my beard and mustache off. Deneb, one of the scientists here does a good job cutting hair, so I got a bit of a trim. Mike, the science tech has been singing "Baby face" to me ever since last night. He says I look too young without the beard. The only part I don't care for is having to shave every day or every other day.

Thanks for all of your letters that you sent. I received them all at once, but that was the first time we have received mail since I've been here. Tomorrow the Erebus comes in from Punta and will bring more freshies and mail, and lots of people. The guy that I'm filling in for is on that ship. So we are going to have a full house here real soon. They have to set up a tent to hold people due to the number of people scheduled in over the next two weeks! Glad I've got a room.

Another beautiful day today. The sun is shining, a few bits of glacier floating in the harbor and a nice breeze. The temp is at 31 degrees and I'm to leave to come home in less than 10 days. It is going so fast now. I wish my camera worked. I wanted to catch a few pictures of things here. Mike has volunteered his camera to me, so I'll catch a few pics over the weekend. Richie the carpenter has been helping me to build a base for that beer lamp I have. I knew the basic dimensions, so we built a wood base and I'll mount the lamp on it when I get home. Was going to seal it with poly, but I don't think I've enough time to do that now.

In one of your letters, you asked what I did here. My job title is Communications Technician. I work together with the Communications Coordinator to support the station communications requirements. That covers a wide range of communications systems. A typical day lately starts for me at 07:30 with a daily schedule with a field party on Livingston Island. There is a group of geologists on the island collecting rocks for study back in the States. Earlier this week, they had a guy in their group who was suffering from snow blindness. He didn't have sunglasses on and sunburned both his retinas. They spoke with the doctor here on station and the guy is ok now. It took a couple of days for his eyes to heal.

Today the Polar Duke came up after my Livingston Island schedule to clarify a question that was asked. One of the principal investigators (head of a science group) had a question about a message that was passed along from Livingston Island. Somewhere in between all of this, I did manage to eat breakfast. At 08:30, 14:30 and 23:30 I have to gather the numbers for the weather and pass them along to Faraday Station. Faraday is a British Antarctic Survey Station which gathers weather data from the peninsula region and passes it on the Marsh Base (Chilean) for flight operations, and onto Cambridge, England which in turn passes the info to the National Weather Service in Washington DC. Communications at Palmer is responsible for weather observations three times daily.

Projects to be done this morning include inventory update of the incoming stock (using DBase III), start researching the works of the linear amplifier used in the HAM shack. The Linear died last week, so the HAM operators/MARS operators would like to have it to run calls to the States. Mike will help me with that project since he has a better understanding of schematics than me.

We've got two boating parties out right now. They are required to carry handheld radios and check in at all of their locations. This helps us locate them if a storm rushes in, a boat floats off, engine problems, radio problems etc. The climate here oftentimes changes so quickly that a small error can be life-threatening if not corrected or noticed right away. Like two weeks ago when one of the scientists slept overnight on Torgerson. He is studying the penguins and is monitoring their returns from feedings. He didn't take proper food stocks and ended up stranded there for 12 hours longer than expected when the brash ice came in overnight and the weather took a turn for the worse. He and the guy he was with ended up opening the survival caches for food!

I'll start getting the outgoing traffic together for sending over the satellite in the afternoon around 16:00 or so. That requires going into the LAN (local area network) and retrieving messages stored and mailed from different computers on the station. Then assign numbers to the messages in order to send the messages in a batch form across the satellite later in the evening. At 17:00 comms with the home office in Denver over the ATS-3 to catch up on what the requirements are from above. Usually any facsimiles received arrive in the afternoon due to the three hour lag time from here to Denver.

Now that we are into the busy season, the evenings are spent up on the satellite and with daily comms schedules. 20:00: Sched with field party on King George Island. 20:30: Weather with Faraday, 21:00: Sched with R/V Polar Duke and for the next two weeks with the M/V Erebus and over the next few weeks a sched at 21:30 with a field party at Seal Island.

While all of this is going on, you hope that the mail is going without too much noise or other problems. The majority of the programs for sending and receiving mail are automated. The computer follows a program that tells it what to do. Much of the logging of messages received is also aided by the use of macro keys which cuts down on the number of keystrokes. Al and I usually split up the traffic handling so I'll do the loading one day and he does the receive (to include the printing/distribution). So I do get some spare time in between dinner and all the scheds. On the days I work out, I sometimes don't get into the gym until 9:30 or later. Last night I gave up the idea of going to the gym; I was just worn out.

We also do a number of other things to help out the local customers understand using the computers and the LAN system. I really enjoy the job here. It can be a challenge sometimes working and living on the same site, but after doing it for so long, I'm used to it. Can't beat the commuting time! I have also had the chance since coming back to pick up a lot of new knowledge about the computers and the LAN. Let's hope that I can use this knowledge to get a job soon after my return.

Guess I should close for now. Like I said to you over the phone, I will call from Punta Arenas and let you know of my return schedule. We have been having a long string of good weather; so maybe, just maybe the SAAM flights will go as scheduled. It would be nice to be home in time for the weekend. Take care and I'll be seeing you again soon.

Antarctically yours,

Monday, July 18, 2005

Chapter 20 - The Third and Last Austral Summer

23 October 90

Still trying to find out whether my checks have been coming to the condo or not. It has been hard to get the company to give me any answers let alone checks. The wave of changes from the change of contractors is still rippling thru the system. It's too bad that it is the employees that bare the brunt of those changes. Delay the paychecks for some our boneheaded “support people” in Colorado and see how long they would stick around!

24 October 90

The weather is still a bit wintry yet, but summer is just around the corner. Right now, Arthur Harbor is iced in with brash. Lots of algae in the ice. We have also had a couple of good windstorms with gusts up to 70 knots. Today we're supposed to have a picnic on the glacier at lunch-time. So most of us will have the afternoon off. Al and I will still have a few things to do since most of our work gets done in the afternoon.

Last night was beautiful. The low clouds invaded most of the sky with the summer daylight peaking through behind the mountains leaving a silhouette of the mountains glowing in the night sky. No colors, just black, white and grays.

If you are going to be in transit anytime from the end of November until mid-December, telex me a note and let me know where you will be when. I am not sure of my departure date, but it is always a possibility that we could cross paths on my trip north. When do you leave to board the Illiria? Let me know what is going on with you. I'm only hoping this reaches you over the next month or so. You are almost as hard to keep track of as me!!

Well, almost time to make my 6 a.m. watch. So I'll close for now.

26 October 90

No excuses, but I am finally catching up on my letters. Last night we had a colorful sunset with the clouds being pulled in from all directions toward the sun. Above our heads was a group of altocumulus clouds that resembled a large open weave basket catching a reflection off the pink and orange sunset. The pink and orange in turn glowed off of the water in between the floating brash ice in the harbor.

I made sure to pick up some new music before I left the states. Depeche Mode - Violator and the B52's among them. I am crazy about both of them too. Also picked up Taylor Daynes newest while in Punta Arenas for ten days. So I listen to them when I'm in the gym or when I stop by the bar.

In spite of what one may think, a remote place does not have to be a social abyss! We have a bar and have been known to have dancing and parties here. At present there are only about a half dozen women on station with the station population at about thirty. Our resupply ship the Polar Duke will be stopping in to take a few people out around the middle of November and will return around the beginning of December with freshies (fresh fruits and veggies) and more people.

From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Eric Siefka, South Pole Antarctica

Hello Eric,
04 November 90

I heard you up on 11553 speaking with Al Oxton earlier and it sounds like things are pretty busy at Pole these days. Why I'm writing is to ask if you still need a comms operator for the summer season. I am presently scheduled to leave Palmer around mid-December, but the comms person I have been filling in for should be on station upon the arrival of the charter vessel on December 7th. I realize that December is already a good part into the season, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm interested if you have any openings. If you have any questions, just shout, or drop a line.

Kris and Donna pass their greetings! Kris also thanks you for the relay of her sisters letters. Take care and we'll be listening for you.

08 November 90

I'm on late watch tonight, so I watched Dead Poets Society tonight. I haven't seen it before and really enjoyed it. Kind of a sad ending, but Robin Williams does a dramatic role well. So here I sit at 3:30 a.m. typing on the computer.

17 November 90

I have been wanting to write you sooner, but you know how things get around here. Things are going along alright here. A few minor probs, but overall having a great time, getting a great tan and enjoying the atmosphere (or lack of, depending on the ozone levels). George our ozone scientist from Assowoman, VA (no kidding, there is really such a place!) just left on the Polar Dock today, so I guess what we don't know now won't hurt us, right? Armando aka Richie Skane says hola, senior.

I can't believe that I'm already short. I am supposed to leave on the 15 December "charter vessel" up to PA, but we will see. If Al doesn't take his break in the beginning of Dec, I may try to convince the management that I would like to leave sooner. Too early to tell at this point. Got a letter from Marcia a couple of weeks ago. She has just moved to Utah and dropped me a marsgram right as she was on her way. I don't have an address right now, so I imagine that she is having the post office forward things. She found a job working with the postal system, so she sounds happy. Have you heard from anyone else lately?

I think winter is holding on a little harder this year than the other two austral summers that I've been down, but spring is coming soon. Things were melting nicely up till Friday night when we had another snowstorm. Only dropped about four inches, but enough to whiten up the rocks again. The harbor is all filled in with brash again, so the penguin scientists are stranded at Palmer again. Two people spent the night at Torgerson early in the week. There is an 8 man tent set up to observe the penguins and track their movements etc. So Mark, the scientist, and one of the GFA's stayed out there but didn't take proper provisions. After spending the night, they ended up stranded out there for the day when the winds picked up to 40 knots. Finally around 8 p.m. the winds came down and a boat went out to get them.

They ended up digging into the survival caches to eat. Old Army C-rats from 1967 are hardly what I’d consider fine dining. So we got all of the graphic details of their gourmet meal selections! They tried to convince us that they would take survival cache gourmet selections any day over the slop we eat in the galley (ya, right!). Our cooks are right up there with Dick's cooking, so put any thoughts of starvation out of your head. I have successfully gained back any weight I lost when I returned home.

Take care and see ya again soon.

17 November 90

Just thought I would drop a line to ya and let you know what's going on in my little corner of the world. Can't say that things have been great, but I still enjoy the job and the location. The weather is getting warmer, but not fast enough. We have been having a few nice days. Had a nice little snowstorm on Friday that dropped about four inches, and winds with steady 40-50 knot winds. The bad part was that the ship was in and they were trying to offload cargo and scientists. Seems like the Polar Duke always brings in the bad weather with them!

I'm here for another four weeks and counting. It feels harder being away this time. The short contract has made me anxious for the days to pass.

Right now there are bergs off in the distance and the harbor is full of brash ice. The penguins have returned and have already started to lay their eggs. Maybe I'll be around long enough to see a few hatch, but the ship schedule is still up in the air. As it stands now, I should be home around the 21st of December.

21 November 90

Dear Hans,
It was great to receive your letter. Things here have been a little too serious lately and my mood has been down in the dumps. Your letter made my day.

The job here at Palmer is going great. The only problem the most of us are having is with little Napoleon our local dictator. He has been difficult to live with, great at micromanaging, bad at personal relations with the troops and is leader of the local moral minority in his attempts to "clean up" the smut on station. I am glad that I have a short contract. At least when you have a job in the States you can leave the a**h*l*s behind when you go home. You don't have to see or talk to them if you don't want to.

Too bad that you and I won't cross paths. It would be great to just sit down in a relaxed atmosphere and catch up on what is going on with one another. We have both done so much traveling and moving around in the past six months. I know your feelings exactly about not being able to stay put in one place too long. I am going to try this time to seriously settle down when I get back again.

Were you able to get all of your plant samples and souvenirs back to Holland without problems? Even though I left Punta Chimino with an almost empty suitcase, I picked up more than enough to fill it in Antigua. If you ever get out to visit me in the U.S., you will see the rug I bought in my dining room on the wall, and the wool bedspread on my bed. Those alone took up almost the whole suitcase!! It was almost a crime not to buy more for the price. I also bought and had framed two of the rubbings which were impressions from some of the stelea in Tikal. They are hanging in my living room and look great.

I really enjoyed my stay in Guatemala too, thanks to you. Your ability to speak Spanish gave me the opportunity to experience the backwoods part of the journey that I would have been apprehensive to try on my own.

I'm sorry that you had such a bad time with Aurora (John's girlfriend in Punta Chimino). She was always kind of two-faced about everything. At least you were able to see through her and still enjoy the overall experience. I did send a box of things that John had asked for, but they were never picked up in the post office in Mexico City and were returned to me about two months later. Oh well, I'll just send him a letter and explain that to him. It probably won't be anything new to him.

So when you get back on the Illiria, say hello to Darrel, and all the others for me. Your friend, Dave

27 November 90

Looks like Al is going to take a quick break before I leave. He will go up to King George Island on the ship M/V Erebus and come back down the next day or so after the SAAM flight with the dignitaries coming down. At least he is taking a couple of day break--he deserves it. So I'll be here to start training the new guy when he arrives.

The weather is cool and overcast today. The harbor is still socked in with ice. Temps have been staying around 25-34 degrees the past week or so. I read that your temps have been unseasonably warm. And here I thought that I would be all acclimated for the cold weather when I came back!

The ship sched is pretty precarious at this point. The office always plans for the SAAM flights to go without a hitch, but it is more realistic to expect them to be a little late. A lot depends on the weather in Punta as well as the weather on King George. Since I am scheduled to come home after the ships return from King George second SAAM, my return could slip a day. Like I said to you before, this is the Antarctic and nothing is ever to be expected to go as planned.

As it goes now, I should be in Chicago on the 21st of December. If that slips back a day, I'll be home on the 22nd. I'll give you a call from Punta Arenas so you will know when I'm arriving. With the Christmas holiday so near to my return, I will be coming directly home. It will probably be difficult to get flights anyway, but even more difficult due to the uncertainty of the return sched. Reservations will be made for return on the 21st and the rest will be left to fate.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Chapter 19 - "Tin Roof...Rusted!"

12 October 90

WOOFF!! Howdy Commander! I finally have two reasons to write. I just ended up back home at Palmer. Nothing permanent, just a 2.5 month stint until mid-December (scheduled return on the SAAM flight--ya, right). It's nice to be back, and I think Al is enjoying having me around too.

I ran into Matt, Andy, Lisa and Beav in Punta Arenas. They had just come back from Torres del Paine and we got stuck in P.A. for almost two weeks. I was hoping to see at least Matt and Lisa before they left and at first was disappointed when I heard that they had already left. I also had the chance to spend time with a Chilean Air Traffic Controller who is now at Punta that was at Marsh during my winter-over, when I was stranded in Punta Arenas for ten days.

The main reason that the ship was stuck in port at P.A. was that the Duke's Inmarsat system bit the big one. The ship couldn't leave port until they had a functional satellite phone system. The new system sent from England was sent through Sao Paulo and the Brazilians were on strike. Once in Santiago, the new dome wouldn't fit into any of the planes. Then a U.S. military C5 military plane had to fly from the U.S. down to Santiago in order to bring it down to P.A. Then the installers who came down to P.A. from Val Paraiso couldn't read English, so the Duke ET and electrician did a lot of the install work.

Just talking with Al. He says that he didn't get your package. It was supposed to come in on this ship. As usual, Port Who-Needs-Me (Port Hueneme, CA) managed to lose that along with the exabite modem for T-five (aren't we surprised?!) If you need something sent down, better to hand carry it or toss it off the pier yourself. At least then you know what happened to it and you know then why it didn't arrive.

I won't be overly optimistic about things, but things are going along fair to midland. Some of the struggles with management around here now remind me of my first season down--Shield-esk in a way! Nothing that hasn't been dealt with so far. Us O.A.E.'s are looking forward to the ship coming down at the end of November. Guess you're coming down along with Bill Fraser, Debi and Craig (now married) among others.

Just to forewarn you; under the new contract, you are given a per diem to cover your food and lodging. They don't cover the lodging as before. Mario will make arrangements at the Savoy in Punta Arenas. If you or Bill want arrangements somewhere else, say something ahead of time to Jimmy upon your arrival in Santiago. The Savoy is running around 5500 Pesos per night. Condor del Platta is running 7500 per night and Los Navigantes is 17500 per night.

Nothing else too earth shattering happening here. We have been having snow and a lot of wind. Temps are ranging from about 25-32 F. I'll close for now, but drop a line if you can and let us know how things are going. Looking forward to seeing you again. Take care and have a good trip down.

13 October 90

There wasn't anything more to say over the phone so I didn't call again. The ship didn't leave Punta Arenas until the 4th of October. It was very frustrating to be sitting in port and not know when we were actually going to leave. We arrived at Palmer on the afternoon of the 8th. It ended up a little longer because we had to drop two people off on King George Island. They have a hut near the Polish Station at Arktowski in Admiralty Bay where they study mostly gentoo penguins.

So we helped them dig out to get into their shack, bring supplies from the ship to the zodiac to the beach to the shack and also helped them set things up. Got the radio running again and ran a radio check with Al who is back at Palmer. There was quite a bit of sea ice on the way down. It was surprising after the winter I spent here. We had no sea ice my winter. So it slowed us down a bit having to break thru ice. It really makes a racket inside the ship.

The other bad part was (and still is) not knowing about pay status. I am glad that I am only with this company for a couple of months. They are really taking everyone here for a ride! No need to worry about me wanting to come back again the way ASA has handled me this time around. I love the Antarctic, but the lack of support from the home office and the other hassles just don't make it worth my while to come back.

I am number one on the managers hate list. I made my feelings known that I didn't like what the company has done with us, concerning paychecks and pay start dates. I also told him that I wasn't a charity and if I wasn't getting paid, I wouldn't stay. It's like you have to twist arms to get what is due to you in this company. I realize that it is a new contract and all, but we need support from the home office and all we have gotten is lip service. I thought Paramus was bad until I see how these guys are "supporting us". I'm glad mine is a short contract!

As far as my pay goes, all I can do is hope that things work out. The most serious problem seems to be pay and when it started. This company works things differently. They don't start pay until after the Duke pulls out of port. So basically, I was stranded in PA for ten days without pay!! I realize that I didn't come down solely for the pay, but that is no reason to shove it down my throat. I know that you are keeping up with putting the right checks in the right envelopes to pay my bills. I just hope the money is going into the bank to cover the checks!!

I am sure at this point that if there were a ship out next week, I would be on it. But, I'll see this mess through since the next ship doesn't leave until the second week in November. At that point, I may as well stay on to get the $75/week bonus, plus it is only another four weeks by then. I am more homesick than I expected and now realize too, that my whole life has changed a lot in just the last six months while I was back at home.

I started this morning to go through all the addresses and resume stuff. December isn't that far off, and I want to have everything ready to print and send out once I get back.

It took me a few days to acclimate myself to the cold, but you can bet that I'll be ready for the Chicago winter once I get back. We came in earlier than usual this year, so winter still seems to be holding on here. We are getting some melt, but still snowstorms and the usual winter windstorms.

The weather here has been cold and stormy. As usual, a couple of feet of snow is still on the ground. We have been having regular wind storms with gusts the first night we were here of up to sixty knots. The whole building shakes under those winds--it's a strange feeling again.

16 October 90

How the heck are ya?! I just got your letter postmarked June and I wanted to write back to you. It might have been longer had I not returned back down to Palmer to pick it up! I finally left Palmer in March after spending two contracts back to back down here for a total of 18 months. When I left in March, I didn't expect to come back down again. I had all intentions of going back to school, selling the condo and living happily ever after or some BS like that. But the way things didn't work out this last summer, I'm back down here for a few months.

So I'll be hitting the pavement at the end of December for a job again.

Winter is still holding on, but summer is just around the corner. The penguins are coming back slowly and have already started to pair up at King George Island from what the ornithologists up there say. We keep weekly scheds with a science group about five hundred miles north among others.

18 October 90

It is nice to be part of the working majority once again, but I am already thinking about my return trip home. No word yet on what date I’ll depart here since the schedule is still a mess from our unscheduled stay in Punta.

Al has made it clear that he is not going to go up to Punta for any amount of time. With the new guy coming in on the end of November ship, Al will want to train him his own way. So I don't think there will be much reason for me to stay as late as they had originally planned, but that would only move my return time up by about a week. I'll let you know, but with so much depending on weather, I probably can't give you a firm return date until I'm actually in Punta Arenas, as crazy as that sounds.

I have been keeping myself out of trouble. I have started back to working out and yesterday did a walk up to the top of the glacier at lunch. This is a fairly quiet group overall. A group went over to Old Palmer today and did some skiing on the new snow. I wanted to go over to OP, but there are other things to concentrate on here. Also could have gone out to Torgerson Island with the penguin scientists, but I turned that down too.

We stopped on Torgerson on Sunday and the penguins are just now starting to arrive. So there isn't too much going on there at present. They won't start laying eggs until late December or so, and I'll be home by that time. The best part of the season is when the eggs are laid and the chicks start hatching.

19 October 90

So many things were happening yesterday, that I was exhausted by the days end. A Twin Otter plane flying from Marsh Base to Rothera was flying over and was going to drop some mail to the station on a fly-by. He chose his drop site and when he released the package, it got sucked up into the starboard side propeller requiring him to emergency land the plane.

You could actually hear the bag get sucked in and the muffled sound from the propeller as it sputtered and coughed before they were forced to land on the glacier behind the station. Two of the blades were seriously damaged. One had a 1-1/2 inch chunk out of it and was bent and another was badly bent on the tip.

After calls up to Calgary, Canada, they were instructed to cut off four inches off each blade (three blades to each motor) of the starboard side. This would reduce the vibration and not cause any further damage, and allow them to take off without requiring an airdrop of the new parts. They finished that this morning and took off just before noon. It was pretty exciting in retrospect. Fortunately, most of the damaged mail was Philatelic mail. Not everything in the mail bag was shredded.

Yesterday and today were beautiful days. The water was so still, you could see the reflection of the glaciers in the harbor. The sky was clear and blue and the sun was shining brightly. Then out of nowhere, the barometer dropped like a rock in the late afternoon and the clouds started to come in. All total we had about three inches of fresh snow that stopped about 9 a.m. this morning. We weren't sure if the weather was going to clear enough for the Twin otter to get out, but it only took about two hours for everything to clear. By about four pm the sky had clouded up again. Good thing they got out while they had the chance.

I didn't get to see the plane take off up on the glacier, but I did run out and watch it from the pier as it taxied down and took off. It is quite a site with the white trail of snow and ice crystals it leaves behind in its wake. They really don't need all that much of a runway to take off either. We stayed in contact with them by radio until they landed on Marsh Base about one hour and 50 min after leaving here. The whole incident reminded me of the winter Twin Otter visits we had on my winter over. Al says that the whole thing was the most exciting thing that has happened since the Bahia went down!

Not too much else happening event a week is about all we can handle.

20 October 90

Yes, I am back. I don't know what came over me, but I think I stepped into a time-warp and ended up back at Palmer during the Nazi era. We have a meeting this afternoon to brush up on our goose-stepping. Well, ok, it isn't that bad, but it sure isn't life as we knew it last summer!

A lot of the people down here now have been down to the ice before…but not the manager! If they’d just let us do our jobs and leave us be, everyone would be happy. All kinds of new rules, and generally a green attitude about everything including managing people.

There is a big group from the McMurdo side and the admin assistant Donna, just got out of South Pole in May and was back down here the end of August! She and I rock out to B52’s every morning now. It started out one hung-over Sunday morning when I’d put on Cosmic Thing. Next thing you know, Donna’s screaming over from her office, “Tin roof…rusted!” and dancing over to the Comms Shack from her office across the hall. It’s our own little dance party at 8:30 in the am! This seems to be our one thing to look forward to in the morning before the black cloud rolls out of bed to lock himself in the manager’s office at around 10 am.

I did see Pat Sullivan the night before I left to come down here. I have written to Dennis, but he didn't write back and now I hear that he is in the Gulf. I called up Robin and speak with him right before his break up with his wife, but I haven't had any chance to speak with him since. If you can, give me his phone number if it has changed. Richie is back down as expected and says hi. Even he has had his second thoughts about coming back with this new contractor.

Al said that you were writing him regularly and that you were doing well. Drop a line soon and I'll keep in touch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chapter 18 - Twisted Trail Back Home

Dave Gallas
Naperville, Illinois

Dave Mobley, Rich Skane, Lisa (la Buge) Crockett
Palmer Station Antarctica

Dear Dave, Rich and Lisa, 28 April 90

Sorry that it took me so long to finally write this letter. It seems like only yesterday since I left Palmer. The trips to Easter Island and Guatemala were nothing less than phenomenal. Easter Island was hot and humid after spending how much time down there! It was beautiful and like a dream--kind of rustic, but exactly how you would picture the South Seas. Rob Robbins and his wife Sandra and I found a nice residential to stay in.

We rented a driver who was the brother-in-law of the owner of the residential and went all over the island. It was great seeing all of the sites that I had earlier read about in the book. I think we saw every stone head carved on the island, every volcano and then some! On the second day, we got up to Anakena Beach on the north side of the island. What a beautiful beach. Almost no people and a white sand beach sloping gently out to the ocean. It was a good feeling to get out in the sun again and fry my skin some!

As mentioned in the book, the islanders are known for their carvings. One of the mornings, I went off to the small market where the locals display all of their wares and found a beautiful carved statue of a moai kava kava. I found the one that I liked best, but then I discovered that he had been dropped on his head and had a huge dent in it. I saw no other carvings that were carved in as much detail. I really wanted that particular statue, so I asked if the woman would take less money for him because of the dent in his head. She said, “Oh, I can have my husband fix that if you’ll come back tomorrow.”

Well, I wasn’t worried about the money that much and really liked the detail on that particular carving, so what the heck. I went back the next day to pick him up and did I have a surprise. At no extra charge, her husband had sanded and recarved in even more detail the carvings on top of the head of this statue. He was even more beautiful than he had been originally. Although history and such of this statue is kind of creepy I really loved it. I say creepy because as their history explains it, he is one of the wandering spirits. After reading the book, this guy was what I remembered and a part of my Easter Island adventure that I wanted to take back with me. While I was already shopping, I also picked up some desktop size volcanic stone moai complete with reddish colored volcanic stone “top knots.” Everyone should have at least a couple of those around the house!

Rob and Sandra were going to spend an extra couple of days to camp out at the eucalyptus grove in front of Anakena Beach. Not being the camping type, I only spent five days there and one day was lost due to rain. We had a downpour that lasted about 18 hours and turned the "streets" or dirt roads into rivers. After it was all over, the plows came and evened the surfaces out again.

I hear that Richie is planning to go there too. If you have the time, it is worth every cent. Easter Island is still so untouched by commercialism and really is a beautiful place. The people are very welcoming and gracious. Make sure to read Aku Aku by Thor Heyerdahl before you go, as it will give you more of an idea about the history, the people and the significance of what you are seeing on the island.

The night before I left, our host at the residential also had a going away dinner for us. He prepared for us some of the freshest tuna steaks around. The fishermen had just hauled them in in the morning and he marinated them in lime juice until they were put on the grill for dinner at 6pm. I have never had such fresh fish. The meat had no fishy flavor or smell and just melted in your mouth.

My stopover in Ft. Lauderdale between Easter Island and Guatemala was very relaxing. I packed up any souvenirs and cold weather stuff and sent it home UPS. Then I spent the rest of the day out at the pool. It was fun to drive again too after not being behind the wheel after 17 months (madman behind the wheel!). Not too much culture shock for me. I fell right back into the pace with few problems. The next day I headed off from Florida to Guatemala.

I thought that the trip to Easter Island would be tough to match, but I was wrong. Guatemala was the best part of all of my travels and proved to be as interesting and as fun as the trip to Easter Island. I don't know if you remember, but I decided to visit Hans, one of the guys on the Illiria who was doing botanical studies on a resort in the northern Peten’ region of Guatemala.

As planned, I made my flight to Guatemala City, stayed the night, then the next morning at 7 a.m. caught the flight to Flores. As Hans said in his telex to me before I left, he met me at the airport in Flores. Thank someone for that--can you imagine the Gringo perdido in Guatemala with only a Spanish/English dictionary?!

Oddly enough, his boss John was also on that flight. From the airport, the three of us headed off to San Benito to run errands and do the shopping for the resort that needed to be done. From there we had a couple of beers and brunch around 10:30 a.m. Sounds a bit early for beer, but with the temps at 90 and the humidity at 95%, they went down easily.

From San Benito, we headed out to Sayaxche (pronounced Say ah shay’) in a Range Rover on roads that looked like our unpaved road up to the T-5 shack at Palmer. That is what they consider a major road. It was basically just a logging road and we passed plenty of trucks loaded with timber as we made our way out to Sayaxche. From what John was saying, only paved road in the Peten’ is the 60 kilometers up to Tikal because of the tourism…that one and the main street in San Benito which happens to be the red light district!

So after 60 kilometers of off-roading through the forest on these logging highways, we pull up to the bank of this river and see a little village on the other side. Across the river is a pontoon which will bring the vehicle and us to the other side. I’m thinking to myself, “Great, we’re finally there!” Boy was I wrong. We were in Sayaxche, but nowhere near to the resort yet.

Hans tells me that John is looking for our canoe driver who will take us 50 minutes up a branch of the Rio Passion from where we are now to the resort. John comes back in a few minutes and has found our guide. So we transfer all the supplies and our gear into a dugout canoe with a 45 horse Johnson outboard motor and up the Rio Passion we head. FYI: If you go the other way, you would be in southern Mexico. The locals use this route to smuggle diesel and other supplies this way from Mexico when the roads are closed off by the guerrillas and supply lines are cut. The birds, turtles and wildlife on the river and all the surrounding jungle are beyond words! The jungle was so green and lush; quite the contrast from Palmer.

We finally got to this little clearing at the end of the river and it opens up to a lagoon or lake of Petex Batun about two miles wide by at least six miles long. We traveled into the lagoon for about ten minutes and then off on the right hand side you could see the smoke from the chimney in the open kitchen pouring into the air from the lakes edge. Now we’re there. Where exactly I have no idea; but we’re there. John’s resort sits on a peninsula called Punta Chimino that juts out into the lagoon. The peninsula was at one time actually dug out to form an island by the Maya. During rainy season the resort is cut off from the mainland and is an island.

John said that one of his main problems has been that wherever he would dig to put posts for buildings, they would end up digging up grinding stones, pottery shards etc. The main temple on the resort has been gone over by thieves a number of times. They nicknamed the mound Temple of the Seven Holes due to the seven holes bored into it by thieves. So before any further excavating is done, they have to call in the Department of Antiquities to get the okay to go any further. Makes for a slow process if you’re building a resort, wouldn’t you say?

Hans and I shared his bungalow which was about a quarter of a mile walk from the main reception buildings. All the bungalows stood on stilts painted with creosote to keep the ants and bugs from crawling into the bungalows. The actual bungalow was constructed so that the bottom half of the walls were wood and the upper halves were screens with the typical palm branch roof. We had electric ceiling fans too (when we had power) to keep a breeze flowing through the bungalow. It was great.

The one night did give me a good scare. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to take a leak real bad. So I quietly get up trying not to wake Hans and go outside to take a leak. Just as I step out the door of the bungalow, about three howler monkeys start screaming and screeching like they are going to jump down from the trees and rip me apart limb from limb! About all I could think about then was getting the heck back in the bungalow and worry about taking a leak once day broke! Hans and John got a great laugh at me the next morning when I told my story. They then proceeded to tell me that these monkeys are only about 2-1/2 feet tall and actually kind of cute. Okay, I’m such a city-boy wimp!

The only plumbing that the resort had was in the shower area and main facilities near the kitchen. We had bottled water for drinking while showers and cooking were normally done with the lake water pumped up to a storage tank up a nearby tree. The water pressure wasn’t too bad! The bathroom/shower area was a rustic shed on a concrete pad about 8 X 8 feet. Sticks were tied together for four walls, which you could see through and an open roof. The hose for the shower was gravity operated. Turn the handle and water showers out on you.

A drain in the floor took the water back out to the lagoon. On the other side of the shower is a toilet mounted on the concrete pad. I’m not thinking there was a septic tank, so I don’t want to know where the rest was going! Better than sitting my hind-end over a log! Primitive but effective. I was never the camping type person, but quickly learned to appreciate the comforts we had. Living in the jungle even with some of the amenities of home was interesting.

During the days I read, listened to music, swam, tried my skill at a dugout canoe (which entertained the locals immensely as I tried to maintain my balance on this shallow dugout) and gave Hans a hand where I could. The one day that I helped Hans, he went out and climbed a rubber tree to the canopy area some thirty feet above, to gather canopy flowers and leaves for his collection. He put these spikes on his shoes and as soon as he dug into the tree trunk with them, a white rubbery fluid bled out of the tree. Later he was telling me that this is the type of rubber that the Mayans would use to make balls for their games.

The weather was hot and humid the whole time and just walking a short distance would leave me drenched from head to toe. The only time my clothes would dry out is when I hung them in the sun on the clothesline in the main reception area (where the future main restaurant and reception building is to be built).

As I expected, the mosquitoes loved me! I was bit up all over even though I was practically bathing in Cutter repellant. Somehow they find the parts that aren't saturated and chew you up alive. I'm still taking malaria pills now. I have to continue to take them for I think six weeks after leaving. I'll be glad when I take the last one, they really rip me up inside.

During my stay there, we made two excursions out to archeological digs. Our first trip was out to the site at Dos Pilas. This site is just shifting into high gear and the Vanderbilt people and the hired natives were digging in many parts of the site. They just uncovered a stairway up to a temple that was beautifully preserved. National Geographic was to come within the next week to photograph it. I did take a few slides of it myself that turned out well.

Our next trip was down to Aguatecha. Aguatecha is located only about 20 minutes (by canoe) at the other end of Petex Batun on our lagoon and is not an active dig. It was worked on in the late 60's. After that it had been put under the park system to be watched and guarded from thieves. If you look at the National Geographic that was just out about Guatemala, you can see on the inserted map where I was. It is on the lagoon between Aguatecha and Dos Pilas.

I have another rather funny story too. The first night out after I arrived, John, Aurora, Hans and I were all sitting out on the screened porch of John and Aurora’s bungalow just talking. Out in the distance across the lagoon, I heard thunder and saw flashes of lightening. I said to John, “Looks like we may have rain coming tonight.” To which he responded, “That wasn’t thunder and lightening; that was the government troops firing on and flushing out the rebels.”

Ok, so I’m a naive gringo. He did add that we didn’t have anything to worry about since it was at least five miles away across the lagoon. Phew! I guess flushing out rebels is kind of like spraying for mosquitoes around here.

The rebel movements did actually impact us some. John was working on conserving diesel fuel. Hans commented that since the week before, John had been cutting off the generator to the resort at about 10pm every night to conserve fuel. The rebels had hijacked a fuel truck bringing fuel into the region, but John had been successful at obtaining black market fuel that had been run upriver from Sayaxche down from Mexico.

I spent a total of nine days at Punta Chimino. For my last three days in the Peten’, Hans and I went up to see the better known ruins Mayan ruins at Tikal (pronounced Tee cahl’). The best way to describe Tikal is like the New York or Los Angeles of the Mayan world. The temples and buildings are beyond description. Hans had been there before, so he showed me his favorite temples the first day. We climbed up three of the five big temples and watched the full moon rise from temple two. The night we went up to see the moon rise, we forgot a flashlight and ended up going the long way around to get back. What a sight!

Hans’ favorite temple was the less-often climbed Temple Three. With all the tree roots at the base and a few of the steps broken up, this temple tended not to be the favorite of too many people…but Hans. When we finally got to the top, it was as beautiful as he had described. While I’m looking around, Hans then digs his hand into his crotch and pulls out a joint! I had no idea. Now I know why he was sweating so profusely two days ago when we were stopped by the Federales checking our passports. He told me that if he would have been caught with that, it would not have been pretty.

Our three days in Tikal were too quick. On the third day we headed back to Santa Elena. Hans caught a bus from San Benito and I caught my plane for Guatemala City that afternoon. The following day I went out to Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala. The town was quaint and has some beautiful architecture. Churches and building that were destroyed from the numerous earthquakes are still left too. I did get in some jade shopping for my mother there too. The quality of jade is supposed to equal that of the Chinese and is at a good price too.

I also unexpectedly ended up buying a wool rug, although that was never my intention. I saw this guy walking around with rugs on his back, and he had spread one out for someone and I liked it. When he saw that I was interested and the other guy declined his sales pitches, he spread it out again and talked himself down from $35 to $25. I had to buy it to keep the guy from talking himself down any further. I figured that even if I didn't keep it, the price was too good to pass up.

Then came the rough part--coming home. I spent the last night in Guatemala City staring at the ceiling in the hotel room; wondering what I was really going back to in Chicago. All in all, the adventures north were worth the 18 months away from society. I had a blast and would love to do it again if I have the money sometime. I would recommend Guatemala to anyone who can get over the jitters of the guerrillas. At least Easter Island was mellow. Now I am realizing that I will have to settle into a more mundane lifestyle, but with my gypsy blood I don't know how long I will stay sane staying at home!

Well, it is too late to call this a long letter, so I guess I'll close this mini-novel for now. Sorry Lisa, I don't drink Campari, but have a Ritamarga for me--the glass is optional as long as you have a good ladle for taste-testing!! Viva la Buge! Please say hello to all the winter-overs and hope all is going well there. Give me a call on the ham radio or over ATS-3 sometime, I'll accept the charges.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Monday, July 11, 2005

Chapter 17 - Travel Arrangements

Here is my Telex to our agents at Agunsa in Santiago for my travel arrangements. Telex is quite an interesting beast to operate.




21 MAR SCL/IPC (Santiago-Easter Island) LA 405 1755-1435
26 MAR IPC/SCL (Easter Island-Santiago) LA 034 0940-1610




26 MAR SCL/MIA (Santiago-Miami) LA 140 2200-0555 (ARRIVE 27 MAR)
28 MAR MIA/GUA (Miami-Guatemala City) PA 405 1755-1935
11 APR GUA/MIA (Guatemala City-Miami) PA 404 0703-1100




24 February 90

Well, today is our last tour ship visit, so I am going to send this one via regular mail. Don't know when the next time we will have any chance to send more mail.

You were asking about my itinerary once I leave Palmer. I thought I had given it to you, but it must have been in a letter I wrote to Mom. Oh well, here it is--as permanent as a schedule can be at this point!

Leave Palmer on the 16th of March via R/V Polar Duke enroute to Marsh Base (Chilean) on King George Island. Fly out of Marsh on the 17th of March on an American C-130. Now, given the odds of any C-130 flying out of Marsh on time, I don't know when I will arrive in P.A. If we are on time, I will arrive in Punta Arenas on the 17th. Fly out of P.A. on the 18th up to Puerto Montt. Spend a couple of days in Puerto Montt to finish some shopping, and then fly up to Santiago on the 20th. This will give me that evening and the next morning to make my lapis purchases at the jewelry shops in Santiago.

On the evening of the 21st, fly out to Easter Island. I will be flying out at the same time as another ANS guy. His wife is meeting him in Santiago. I leave to go to Santiago on the 26th and continue onto Miami arriving on the morning of the 27th. I am going to rest up after an overnight flight in Ft. Lauderdale and take off for Guatemala City from Miami on the afternoon of the 28th.

On the 29th fly up to Flores in northern Guatemala and then catch a bus that afternoon to Sayaxche. Hans is working on an island off the town of Sayaxche, so I will have to catch a canoe out to the hotel there. On the 10th of April I will leave Flores and fly to Guatemala City. On the 11th I will fly out of Guatemala City for Miami, then up to Chicago. I thought I had given you all that info, but I have written so many letters over the past couple of months that I don't remember anymore who knows what!

I'm glad that you and Dee dug into some of my stuff. I feel like I've lived in a vacuum over the past 1-1/2 years when I speak with you at home. At least now after watching the video tapes about what everything looks like and all. If you have a viewer, you could probably sit down with the slides and feed them thru the viewer. Don't mix them up too much though, I have them in chronological order right now. It will take some sorting out before I get them together into some kind of a slide show. I will also take a bunch to have pictures made for a photo album. I don't know anymore how many slides I've sent back, but I hope they look as good as the ones you saw in my boxes.

01 March 90

Things here are starting to wind down now for me. I leave here on the 15th. I can't believe that the time has gone by so fast. I will really miss so much here, but I think it is time to get back to real life again! But I won't be directly home, as I am planning to travel some on the trip north.
The weather here is starting to get a little cooler. We hit -1.1 C yesterday morning for the first time since December. Had some snow flurries last night too. Guess fall is almost here. The Adelie penguins have for the most part left as have most of the Elephant seals. Fur seals have already started to show up too. We still have had some beautiful days this last month. Hit 8.3 C and the glacier is still calving all the time. Got rumbled out of bed this morning at 6:30 when a side of the glacier gave way. It will be nice to leave, but I will miss the area.

02 March 90

I'm glad that you watched the video with all the clips from the station and activities and people. I forgot that it was in that box. Hope it wasn't too boring for you! When you said what you did about so many women on station; that was during the middle of winter when the scientists were on station. They were all gone by the beginning of August. I suppose the tape gives you a better idea of how things were down here and how we are. Pictures don't always do justice to things--including the crazy times.

I have a lot of reserved feelings about coming back home, more than I had thought. After being away for so long, all these ideas start racing through my head. "What if... what if... what if". I'll just have to sort things out once I get home.

The Erebus comes in tomorrow morning from P.A. Hope I have some mail on it. I don't expect it since I have told most to not write here anymore. I sense a party in the air since this is the last night before the big-wigs get here tomorrow. We'll see....

10 March 90

Things are winding down here and I am outta here on Thursday morning already. So I thought I would pound out one more messages to you from here before I go. The winter-over Comms Coordinator is out on a jaunt south for a little R&R, so I will be in the radio room pretty often over the next four days. It's nice to feel needed sometimes, even if it is close to my departure date. Getting a little jittery about going back to the world, but I'll take it as it comes.

The new contractor has had two people here over the past week interviewing people and getting a feel for Palmer in general. Speaking with them has kinda sparked my interest in thinking about coming back. Guess I'll wait until I get back home and have time to consider my options and life more.

Summer here seems to be at a close already. The winter weather has been quickly closing in on us. We have been having a lot of crumby weather--snow and wind, etc, but nothing I haven't dealt before! Actually, I kind of like the most of the weather here since it doesn't include biting insects! That is among the things I haven't missed. Going to Guatemala is probably the worst way to get adjusted to bugs and insects again!

Most of the penguins have already headed north as have the elephant seals. The fur seals have come back over the last month. Soon the skuas and gulls will be gone too. Don't expect too many more whale sightings this late in the season either.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Chapter 16 - Dear Washington Junior High...

08 February 90
Dear Washington Junior High 6th Grade Class,

My name is Dave Gallas. I am originally from Clarendon Hills, but when I'm back in the U.S. I now live in Naperville. I first came down here to Palmer in October 1988. I have had a couple of small vacations since then, but only on our resupply ship the R/V Polar Duke and also one week in Chile this last October.

My job here at Palmer Station is Communications Technician. This involves working with the stations radios and computers. We send traffic daily via satellite into the main computer in Florida and also receive traffic over the satellite. Radio communications are made with the Polar Duke on a daily basis except when she is in port in Punta Arenas. For the past month, the Polar Duke has been at McMurdo Station on the other side of the continent and so we have not kept a daily schedule with her.

We also contact science groups in remote areas to make sure they are alright. One group is on King George Island on the Arktowski Peninsula studying penguins. Another group is on Seal Island studying birds and seals. On Palmer now, there are two different groups studying birds. One group is studying kelp gulls, south polar skuas and sheathbills and another group is studying Adelie penguins.

Since we do not have a meteorological person here, the communications also does the weather observations. These weather observations are passed onto the British Antarctic Survey Station at Faraday in the Argentine Islands. They are located about 30 miles from Palmer. Faraday collects weather observations from all stations in our area. This information is passed along by radio and then onto the Chilean station on King George Island, Marsh Base so they can draw up their weather maps and make weather predictions for the planes and ships in the area. The weather information is also passed along to the U.S. National Weather service in Washington D.C.

January and February are the busiest part of the austral summer for us. The weather is as nice as it will get to be and we have many visits by tourist ships and private yachts. This letter will be hand-carried back to the U.S. by a tourist. The summer is also a busy time for the scientists since all of the wildlife comes back to breed and raise their young. On station right now we have only 38 people, but we are able to hold up to 43. There are 10 women and the rest men.

During the austral winter, from May until October, the station population is much smaller. Not so much science is conducted during the winter here at Palmer. Most of the science that was conducted this last winter (June-September) was conducted on the ship. The Polar Duke would take the different science groups out to gather specimens and then drop them off to take the other group or groups out.

During the austral winter the sun does not even rise above the glacier behind the station. Most days were overcast and when we did have sunlight, it was only from about 10:30 until 1:30-2:00 p.m. With the clear winter skies and clean cold air the stars are easy to see. I wish I knew more about the Southern Constellations. Having never been south of the equator before, I never realized that many of the common constellations we look for and know are not always visible.

I have really enjoyed living in Antarctica for the past 17 months. I have had the chance to see many different things. The wildlife is beautiful. In our area we have Adelie penguins, chinstrap penguins, some gentoo penguins in the winter, blue eyed shags (cormorants), giant petrels, Wilson storm petrels, south polar and brown skuas, sheathbills, Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, elephant seals in the summer, fur seals in the winter, crab eater seals, leopard seals, Weddell seals, humpback whales, minke whales and orcas. I know this isn't all that is here, but as many as I can remember now. The humpback whales are always passing through in the summer. Three weeks ago we had three humpbacks that were only about 100 feet off of the station. They were feeding on krill and uninterested entertaining us on station.

Along with the abundant wildlife, we also see the predator and prey. With so many penguins, it is only natural that we would also have leopard seals. I have more than once seen a leopard seal capture a penguin from the window here and shake the penguin out of its skin. I also had the chance to see a two-week old baby penguin snatched out from under its parent by a skua. These are not the kind of scenes that can be seen at the zoo!

Unlike many other parts of Antarctica, the peninsula has a warmer climate and more precipitation. Among many of the people here and on other stations on the continent it is know as the banana belt because of our "warm climate". Our summer temperatures this year have gone as high as 8.7 degrees Celsius. During the past couple of weeks we have also had quite a bit of rain. I am sending along a chart that I have made about the weather here. I hope it gives you all an idea of the type of climate we live in on this part of the large continent of Antarctica.

The coldest temperature on record at Palmer is minus 40 degrees Celsius. This last winter we came nowhere near that. According to the records of the British Antarctic Survey, this last June and July we had the warmest recorded temperatures since the 1950's. We had no lower temperatures than -11.1 Celsius. We did have a lot of windstorms and snow, but after growing up in Chicago, this was not cold at all. This winter we did do some snowmobiling on the glacier and many of the station personnel skied on the glacier. Some boating in Zodiac type boats was also done to the nearby islands.

I have read through the letters you have sent Brent and feel I should answer some of your questions.

1) We do not have any dogs on station. There are still some dogs on Rothera Station (Adelaide Island, British Antarctic Survey), and from what I hear on the Kiwi (New Zealand) stations on the other side. The NSF (American National Science Foundation) has done away with dogs here due to the threat of diseases from the dogs being passed onto and killing seals and other wildlife.

2) We live in regular buildings that have dormitory type bedrooms, bathrooms, showers, a kitchen, and laboratories for the scientists, etc.

3) The food is great here. We have a cook and a cook's assistant who are responsible for keeping us well-fed. That's why I have gained five pounds since I've been here. Their menus are better than some of the fancy restaurants I've been to. The only hard part for us is the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. We only have "freshies" whenever a ship comes in. At times we go up to three or four weeks without freshies. You really learn to appreciate a banana, peach, lettuce and tomatoes when you taste them for the first time again.

4) Yes, we do get lonely and miss our families during the holidays, but being such a small station makes the people a little closer. Everyone here is kind of like your family away from home. At times it is like having 30 other brothers and sisters (which can be good or bad at times!)

5) We haven't had the chance to see any of the Transantarctic people. During the winter in August, a resupply airplane landed on the glacier and visited Palmer. We had the chance to see one of the dogs, Razor who was being flown in to join the rest of the team when they were in the middle of the peninsula. It was great to see a dog since at that time; I hadn't seen any domestic animal in almost 11 months.

6) We have crevasses in our glacier behind the station. For that reason, a safe path has been marked with trail markers. So we are still able to walk up on the glacier with some safety. During the winter months all the snow had filled in, and covered up and frozen over the crevasses, so there wasn't so much worry of falling in. We were still required to stay within certain boundaries for our own safety even during the winter.

7) What's it like here at night? Well, that depends on whether it is summer or winter. During the summer the sun only sets for about two hours here. Even after it has set, it is still light out. So we don't see many stars in the summer! In the winter nights are dark and days are short.

8) It takes about 3-1/2 to 4 days to get to Palmer by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile. That could be faster with a more powerful ship, but the weather across the Drake Passage also plays a part in how long the trip will be. On my one week vacation north to Chile, we hit a storm crossing the Drake that turned the ship at a 45 degree angle three times. The ship has a ballast system to right itself, so there is no worry about flipping over. It still makes sleeping and staying in bed very difficult. I had a roommate on that trip up that was seriously seasick, but I felt ok. I was seasick on the nice trip coming back. You never know if you'll be sick or to what extent.

9) No we don't ice skate down here. Unfortunately, the only fresh water we do have is covered by snow in the winter. In the summer the fresh water melt ponds are our backup fresh water supply. Most of our fresh water supply during the winter is made with the desalinators. This creates fresh water from salt water.

10) Pollution is a very big concern of all the treaty nations here in Antarctica. The U.S. is by no means any more innocent of polluting the pristine continent than is for example the Argentine government whose ship the Bahia Paraiso sunk about one mile from Palmer. The National Science Foundation is trying to initiate cleanup efforts at all the U.S. stations, but at the moment there is still much that needs to be done on our part. Cleaning up old sites and old dumps, some up to twenty years old, whether in Antarctica or your backyard will require an enormous amount of money and support from the public. The oil barrel left in Antarctica does not rust away and disappear in the same time as one might in a dump back home. The idea of cleaning up pollution starts where you live.

Scientists are very lucky to have an area as this to study animals in a habitat that has not been dramatically changed by humans. I think world pressure and groups like Greenpeace has caused some nations to start to clean up their act here in Antarctica. I hope as time goes by that stations can operate in a way that will lessen their detrimental effects on the environment that they are trying to study. I knew very little about Antarctica until I came to work down here. I have grown to appreciate the experiences I have had and hope that some of you can someday have this type of chance too.

I hope when I get back home in May or June I can visit and answer any other questions you have. Although I will be leaving Palmer in March, I will be doing a lot of traveling through South America and Central America. I hope you have enjoyed my letter and look forward to seeing you in May or June.

Dave Gallas
Communications Technician
Palmer Station, Antarctica

11 February 90

Lots of things going on here. This week is the last of the tour ships. The World Disco(verer) and the Illiria will be in the week on Thursday and Friday. The last time the Illiria was in, most of us got to go out for the drinks and the show. They have been on a tighter schedule this year, so we haven't had the number of chances to get out on the tour ships that we did last year.

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. We now have windows in the stairwells of Bio! It really brightens up the stairs--now we can see all the dirt on the steps.

Well, it's a great day out and I should try to soak up some of the sunshine. The temp today is about 46.5 and the sun is out and it kind of reminds me of home in the Spring-time.

11 February 90

In the past few weeks we have hit 47 a few times and we are getting some nice clear days too. The glacier has making a lot of noise lately and we have had some beautiful views of ice falling off the glacier. With all the rumbling it makes, it sounds like constant thunder.

I just read over your letters again. I don't think people realize the size of the Antarctic continent. It is probably hard for anyone to believe that from where Palmer is on the peninsula, we are about 1500 miles from the South Pole and double that from McMurdo which is under New Zealand. We just got hit up with 90 letters from grade-school kids who are studying a unit about Antarctica. They just happened to be from Naperville, so I wrote a letter to answer some of their questions. Last fall we had a group of letters from a class in a Downers Grove grade school. I think kids are becoming more aware that there is something down here with things like the Bahia Paraiso sinking/oil spill, the Transantarctic Expedition and Greenpeace pushing for Antarctica to be a world park.

12 February 90
We have had high winds since yesterday evening steady at about 35-40 knots with gusting up to 55 knots. It is funny to feel the walls and bed shaking all through the night. Kind of reminds me of riding overnight on the train. Seems like the bad weather is starting about a month early. This is normally what March weather is like down here.

If you know any Ham operators, our call sign is KC4AAC and they are normally up on 14289 or 21325 USB starting at around 2300Z.

With not too many more ships coming in between now and the time I leave, it will probably be better not to send anymore mail to the Chilean address. I'll be seeing everyone again once I get home.

12 February 90

When we speak on the phone over the radio, please refer to the marsgrams as e-mail or electronic mail messages. Rick has been getting a hard time from other Mars operators who don't do their messages over the satellite and he asked us to pass that on to everyone. Thanks.

I'm glad you liked the picture of me. I have long since cut off the beard. I still have the moustache though.

All yesterday and today we have been having high winds. They have been steady at about 35 knots with gusting up to 55 knots. Most of the weather has been snotty the past two weeks anyway. The temps have been consistently in the 40's, but not too much sunshine. Rachel said Sunday that you guys had some nice warm weather. I am dreading the hot weather in a way after being spoiled with such comfortable seasons here (and no biting insects!) So I'll be home just in time for all the fun.

This week we have our last two tourist ships coming in. The end of the tourist season is already upon us. Last year it was prematurely cut by the sinking of the Bahia Paraiso. It hasn't been too bad though. We are supposed to get some mail in on Friday too. The Illiria is coming in on Friday, so I may get to talk with Hans some more about my plans up to Guatemala. He wasn't sure when he left the last time if he would be on a break for that cruise or not.

12 February 90

As March gets closer, I am getting more excited about leaving. I am looking forward to going up to Guatemala. As quiet and secluded as you say it is, it will be nice to experience the jungle and ruins. I am not looking forward to getting carried away by the mosquitoes. Bugs will be the hardest thing to learn to deal with again. I haven't even thought about being bit by insects for a long time. Our idea of bugs in the Antarctic is seeing a fruit fly or a spider when the freshies come in.

The weather during the past couple of weeks has not been too good. We have had a lot of rain. Yesterday and today we have had high winds up in the fifty knot range and averaging around 30-35 knots. It seems like the bad weather is starting earlier than last year. The metal workers are replacing my wall this week. I should say were, because once the winds picked up, they had to stop. So they put the window back in, but patched all the holes around it with duct tape (America's fix all!). With all the wind we have been having blowing at my wall, the whole wall is like a water sprinkler. Right now we have water dripping all over the place from this reskinning of the building. It has left all kinds of cracks and crevices all over the place where they never were. At least my bed is warm and dry though.

14 February 90

Just got word yesterday that the Illiria will be in for a visit next week instead of this week. I still am not sure which ship you will be on. I developed the slides that were taken of us and also one with Eduardo. I am going to try my hand at Cibakrome and try to make a couple of prints. If they turn out well, I'll send them along. If not, you won't see them till I get to Guatemala. I was afraid the lighting was going to be bad.

15 February 90

The prints didn't turn out too good. I either had them overexposed or too dark. I may play with them more by using different filters and exposure times, but for now I made Polaroid prints from the slides. They don't look too bad, but they don't have the color quality that the original has. Cibakrome sometimes is the same way.

19 February 90

Thanks for the letter and the Marsgram. I finally received the letter you sent to me in Naperville. My sister sent down some of my mail, but sent it through Paramus, so it took quite awhile to get here. I'm starting to get a little, no, a lot anxious about going home in another three weeks! I have a bunch of traveling planned, but I am looking forward to getting away from Palmer. It isn't any better or worse than it was, I am just ready to settle into a different life now.

This week is the last week for tour ships. I can't believe the tourist season is finally over. This summer season is winding down quickly. It will seem strange to drive again and have to pay for everything I eat. Yes, I am still going to travel a little before heading home in April.

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.