Friday, June 03, 2005

Chapter 2 - Arrival at Palmer Station

Chapter 2

October 22, 1988

There isn't too much that we can do on the ship except watch videos, read and eat. Mike the ships telecom tech is on the ship, but told me that we cannot do too much in the way of satellite traffic until we are out at sea because the Channel walls make communications difficult at best. Even once we are out at sea, the signal is difficult to maintain if the ships movements are too much. Keep on losing the signal and having to rotate the direction of the antenna.

All the seasoned OAE's (Old Antarctic Explorers) are remarking on how the Drake is a real lake this trip around. Drake Lake is nothing like the Drake Passage in "The Bounty" with Mel Gibson.

October 24, 1988

Well, you know you’re in trouble when you arrive and the welcome wagon has a sign up on the balcony reading, "Welcome, Fresh Meat!"

October 25, 1988

I can see I have a lot to learn in a very short period. John Platt is trying to get me up to speed on everything in a nine day period. It doesn't help me that I'm computer illiterate. I have successfully avoided PC's since the military, and now I have to know everything about them in nine days!

01 November 1988

John and I over the next nine days have been putting in anywhere from fourteen to sixteen hour days to try to get me up to speed on the operation of the networks and radios. I never understood why they didn't just have him stay back until the next ship, but all of his plans were made around him getting on that ship when it left.

John's biggest worry was that I would get on that ship before he would! He was toast! It is a common definition used to describe someone who is mentally wasted and needs a big dose of civilization. It seems to be caused by the isolation and the constant routine of winter. I will hopefully experience that myself if I can only make it through the next month until Al gets here.

I was supposed to have a Communications Coordinator joining me in my south bound trip, but he was released while we were in training classes in Florida. The new person to fill that position was Al, who was coming over from the McMurdo side. Al
had just completed a winter over on the McMurdo side and was going to follow on with a summer at Palmer. The only catch was that he would not be down until three weeks after the Polar Duke departed with the old Palmer crew.

December 1988

Al and I didn't exactly hit it off from the start. He was a crusty old bird that came in with his own views on how things should be run. So after three weeks of doing what I thought was correct, he arrived and promptly told me that everything I was doing was wrong. OK, I can accept that. The only problem was that in his reworking of the operations, he wanted to leave me out in the cold. I found him very cold to me when trying to get answers out of him.

February 1989

I soon learned that if you wanted answers out of Al, you had to listen to his spiel preceding the answer to your question. In retrospect, Al helped me learn to listen to people. He taught me patience and he taught me how to hold my tongue.

Throughout the next couple of months, I was getting a strong impression that Al had all intentions of dethroning me of the winter over slot at Palmer. Sad part of it was that he was more qualified and was revamping the systems, making them seriously
more efficient. He was also making things more involved in their operations.

Al completed scripts to run traffic on its own, to bring up programs for the users, to assign message numbers depending on the type of traffic it was designated as. I was interested in what he was doing, but was always feeling like the fifth wheel. His best work was accomplished when everyone else was in bed or drinking at the GWR. I don't mind working strange hours, but I wasn't going to spend every waking hour in the same room with someone whose mind I was unable to read and with someone who made me feel anything but welcome.

I had packed my bags twice during the four months from September to December. It wasn't until around Christmas that I felt I belonged there. Mike, our new station manager did his best to reassure me that my position was secure as a part of the winter over staff.

One other interesting event happened in December. Kennedy from Paramus came down after some major complaints were emailed up to Paramus concerning some head-butting going on between the grantees (scientists on station) and our station manager, Jack. Kennedy arrived on station just after Thanksgiving and Jack was fired just before Christmas. We understood the reasoning behind Jack’s release, but not the timing.

The ship wasn’t going to leave for two days. Now we had to have Jack moping about the station for two days in an embarrassed state. This was not necessarily the most comfortable situation for him or for us. It was a bad situation for management, since they felt that he should not remain in charge until his departure and the ship wasn't leaving for two more days.

At this point, the supervisor of the power plant mechanics was put in charge of the station. Mike Rentel really didn’t want the position, but was very good at it. He actually listened to people and knew how to make sure that the grantees were getting the support they needed. The change was welcome and well accepted by everyone by the time Kennedy escorted Jack back Stateside.