Day 7 |
Dec 16, 2009

Palmer Station

By Rich Kirchner, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 64˚7’S 064˚W

Weather: Wind and rain in the morning, with rain and calmer conditions in the afternoon

My alarm went off at 6:30 am, and I quickly got dressed and went to the Observation Lounge, to get some coffee and see our approach to Palmer Station. It was very apparent that the conditions outside were borderline for operations this morning. As I watched and ate some breakfast, the Captain was maneuvering the ship, trying to find a good anchorage and see what would happen.

After a lot of different moves, the ship finally found a comfortable position and several staff from the station arrived at the ship to give the pre-landing briefing. While that was going on, myself and the other staff members boarded Zodiacs and prepared for the dual landings for our morning at Palmer. We would do landings at the station and at Torgesen Island, in three groups.

The wind dropped and we got the OK to start the operation. The logistics were a little complicated, because of the dual landings and the limit on guests at the station at any one time, but we pulled it off! Myself and three other Zodiac drivers were in a constant shuttling pattern between ship, station and the island.

Right at the end of the morning, we had an increase in the wind, and had to hurry the last few guests at the station onto the Zodiacs and get them onboard before the weather deteriorated any further. After all was said and done, the operations of the morning were very successful, and we were underway to more open water and possible protection from the wind.

The plan was to head to Port Lockroy and hopefully find some protection from the increasing winds. On the way, I gave a lecture entitled “Living and Working in Antarctica”, about my time spent with the US Antarctic Program in McMurdo Station, on the other side of the continent. It was a special time for me, and I love sharing those experiences with the guests. It was especially meaningful today, because of our visit to another US base, Palmer!

As I was finishing my lecture, Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink came in and informed me that we were going to do a landing at the historic “Port Lockroy” in about a half hour, and I needed to finish up. We had gotten special permission from the station manager to do a landing, because another ship had cancelled their proposed landing this afternoon. This was a pleasant surprise, and racing through the rest of my lecture, I soon was changing gears again and getting ready to drive Zodiac. Within twenty minutes I was back on the water and getting ready to take the first guests ashore.

We had a limited time available for this landing, because another ship was coming in for an evening landing at the station. Using two Mark 6 Zodiacs, we were able to get guests ashore quickly, squeeze in a little shopping at the gift shop, plus get some historic information along the way. The guests even had time to enjoy a little of the Gentoo penguin colony that surrounds the station.

Even before we were done, the next ship was pulling in for their landing. We said our farewells, headed back to the ship, and enjoyed a drink before dinner. 

Hopefully, the weather would improve overnight, and we could have a morning cruise through the Lemaire Channel, and land at Petermann Island. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!