Icy Inverts 2004
Daily Journal of the R/V Laurence M. Gould
Dec. 16, 2004 --- Position  Lat/Long: S064° 46.479 W064° 03.307
[Wind: 3-4 kn / Air Temp: 0.6C / Wind Chill: 0.2C /Depth: N/A m / Seas 0ft – full ice floe]
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Palmer Station (U.S.) on Anvers Island

We arrived at the long-anticipated Palmer Station at the SSW corner of Anvers Island around 7:30 a.m., tied up (it takes about a ½ hour!) and had breakfast on board before a 9 a.m. meeting with the Station Manager, sent to initiate us to the station.

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 Joe Pettit gave us instruction on where we could go, how to sign in and out and where get radios (walkie-talkies) to take with us if we were going to explore beyond the station campus. It’s rugged terrain here, and because it is at the foot of a glacier, it has its unique hazards. [Image 1]

Once outdoors and off the ship, we explored the comfortable campus buildings and offices, including the Aquarium and science area, the dining hall, and sought out other pertinent information such as where to find the hot tub. This campus looks like the other stations we passed (only, the buildings were blue, not red), not unique in its outward character, but seemed functional and even homelike in many of its communal areas. The cast of characters there also appeared to have an air of solidarity in what could be loooooong seasons of isolation. I think of that isolation when I’m told that, although the continent has very little precipitation – averaging 4½ inches of snow per year, the peninsula has more like 25 feet of snow per year! It is the relative “rainforest” of the continent.

Our directive from Ken Halanych was to “meet on top of the glacier at 3 o’clock for a group photo – and be sure to wear your 2004 Antarctic Cruise tee shirts!!” (Rudi had them made for us before we left Cape Cod). We took off in small groups to travel the .8 miles, 460 vertical feet, on our own time [Note: the coordinates at the top of the glacier are, S64 degrees 46.452minutes W064 degrees 01.391 minutes]. I have to tell you, the .8 miles doesn’t sound like much until you try it in your Raytheon-issue layers of clothing and ultimately the ‘Sorel-like boots’ which Larry Madin describes as his “clown boots” – they are a couple of sizes too wide and one size too long, and we all look pretty clunky in them! Add to that the snow conditions which today were “loose granular under thin glacial hardpack” – which means, you never know which step you take will break through and sink you up to your knees in something I would not call “fluffy”. The weather was not too cold (around freezing), but overcast with occasional blizzards (weather passed through quickly here today!), so seeing the trail markers for or from any distance was at times what we might call “compromised”. The glacier was marked, we think by a professional street sign coordinator from Boston, with black-flagged poles at regular intervals of about 20 feet, except for the part we did not find ‘regular’, and probably went outside the lines for a bit… It was important to stay within those markers for safety – glacial ice and snow shifts are unpredictable, and especially in the melting springtime season. Crevasses are not our friends.

The short story from this point is that we all did make it, those energetic ones who hopped to the top by 2:30 were pretty cold by the arrival of the last, and were getting ready to draw straws on which one they would have to grill up and eat to survive the elements until Search and Rescue could find them… (Nerida - from Australia - has seen and already had enough of her first snow!) The camera arrived with a tripod, a committee was formed to figure out how to use them, and finally we were in formation by the “Danger - Crevasses - Stop!” sign. The first timed shutter release was done by Ken. Did I mention that you cannot run in this crusty breakthrough snow? Well, Ken dove and rolled into the picture after learning that running only made him break through more. Wisely, subsequent shots were delegated to the diminutive Adriene, who had some difficulty, but comically and with unbending determination, kept going back for more! [Image 2] We doffed our jackets to show the tee shirts, just as one of the blizzards let up – so we have a GREAT TEAM PHOTO!! [Image 3] The Salp Team then posed in pyramid formation for their group photo (always ‘one up’ this bunch, aren’t they?), which was very good, and then we headed back down (a much simpler terrain negotiation). [Image 4] Cafeteria trays would have been welcomed for quick transport, except for that nasty unavoidable rock formation at the bottom of the glacier…

We were invited to the station for pizza dinner with blonde brownies and ice cream sundaes! It was a good opportunity to meet some of the Palmer staff. Five people are coming back with us to Chile, so we will make room for some welcome company (who would not be welcome into our friendly camaraderie?). All of them have “new” names, Katherine, Joe, Jude, Toby and Brad. We may be a bit feeble in the mind at this point in the cruise, so the challenge of names matching names we already know might be a little too much…

At the stroke of 6 p.m., we were on to THE STORE. The Station Store is in a room about 16’x10’ without inventory, and with 12 or so people in there at a time, it was sardine city – but we were desperate to spend money! It was hard not to leave a mess in there (tee shirts, especially, sorry!!). After shopping, we headed over to the recreation room where ship staff mixed with science mixed with station people in a very pleasant mood. We all were grateful for the night off with loud music and non-shop talk.

Many of us took advantage of our first chance since leaving Chile to phone home, from there at the station. It was a great opportunity to make some much-needed voice contact with our families.

The activities that went on later in the evening and perhaps into the morning hours are left to mere rumor and speculation, as I was not in attendance. There was pool-playing and darts-throwing and music-cranking-and-dancing.


The hot tub was utilized with gusto, everybody played nice, and a few even took the “Polar Plunge”, which means running from the hot tub into the cold harbor!! The next day, the reminiscences of the merriment did not include any regrets or apologies. That, my friends, adds up to a successful party.

All in all, a good time was had by all, and the tradition of the Palmer Station stop towards the end of a cruise remains in good standing.

Dinner Menu (shipboard, 12/16):