Friday was a busy day for Palmer Station. The Laurence M. Gould arrived post-breakfast with a shipload of new support and science personnel, station supplies and freshly trapped fish swimming in temporary aquaria on the ship. Fortunately, for a change, we had a calm morning weather-wise which would make offloading tons of cargo with the massive armed ship's crane, much safer and more comfortable for all involved.
Science goes on, especially with a calm day. Maneuvering the zodiac under and around the myriad of mooring lines the Gould laces to shore is always tricky but Ruth did a fine job at the tiller motoring divers Chuck and Kate, and fellow tender me off to a nearby dive site.
While Ruth and I watched Kate and Chuck's bubbles, a voice on the handheld radio we use to communicate to station when we are out in the field broadcast: "Freshies have been offloaded - all available hands to the hoist room". "Freshies" includes milk, juice, eggs, and yogurt (!) AND almost fresh-picked fruits and vegetables.
Drat I thought, apologizing silently to cooks Stacie and Dianne - I love helping unpack and store the fresh food. The chance for a sniff of earthy fragrances is a real treat. It is also an appetizing preview of what will appear at mealtimes: leafy greens for salads, aromatic herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and fresh (not canned or frozen!) fruit. This shipment tipped the scales at 600 pounds so I missed a good weight lifting session too. Well, I did get to haul heavy dive gear....
Another 5000 pounds of dry food (flour, grains, pastas, canned food) were craned off the ship and forklifted over to storage. Since delicate and quick handling is not so critical for these items additional assistance is usually not requested. There should have been an entire freezer container, like the kind you see sitting on 18 wheels, full of frozen meats, fish, vegetables, ice cream (!). The container was in a port in Chile during the earthquake which lost power and the entire shipment thawed. Yuck! It will be awhile before the station enjoys steaks or hamburgers, but there still is some ice cream.
The Gould also delivered liquid food for the station generators. The Palmer Station logo'ed fuel tank was pumped up with 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel. First thing Saturday morning a yellow boom was floated around the perimeter of the ship and some of the shoreline around Palmer. This was to contain a possible fuel spill and I am happy to report would prove unnecessary. Next a very long 4 inch diameter hose was spooled out of the ship's hold, down the gangway, across the pier and over to permanent valve at the corner of the boathouse. From this valve, a fixed pipe travels the length of the boathouse-dive locker and up the hill to the fuel tank. It took about five hours to fill 'er up.
The Gould spent an extra day in transit from Chile to do some deep sea fish collecting for an onboard science group that will share Palmer's lab facilities with us. Dr. Bill Detrich from Northeastern University in Boston and collaborators John Postlethwait (University of Oregon) and Juan Carlos (JC) Zabala (University of Madrid, Spain) plus several graduate students spent many cold hours out on deck removing fish from the traps and trawls winched aboard and transferring them to temporary aquaria on the ship. The group collected roughly 75 individuals of the three main species they plan to work with at Palmer. At the right, John introduces me to one of his new fishy friends as he and JC net out the gilled group from the ship's temporary and mobile aquaria and into the large circular tanks in the aquarium building.
In addition to the new science group, also aboard the Gould were many new staff members for the station. Most of the support staff has been here since September and it is time for them to leave. Their replacements will have an intense time learning the ropes from their predecessors before the ship sails. This changeover or turnover as it is referred to marks the unofficial beginning of winter on station. The new crew are called the winter-overs as they will spend the winter in residence, heading north sometime in September.
Our project gained a new member - Dr. Bill Baker, the chemist principle investigator and is from the University of South Florida. He is also the academic mentor of Alan and Jason. In the midst of the craziness of offload and refueling, as each of us did during our first days, Bill enjoyed a dock dive check out off the rocks of the boathouse - but he had the added perk of refueling in progress. He was happy to be back in the saddle/water collecting and did not even notice the bright yellow containment boom he swam by as shown on the right.
The downside of the ship arriving with all these new faces, fishes and freshies is that it inevitably sails away with friends, the summer-overs. Their departure is sweetened with thoughts that each is embarking on new another adventure. But we have all to enjoy (hopefully the lettuce and bananas will last) for a week or two longer before the ship heads north.
In the meantime, if you recall from my previous post, the inhabitants of Palmer share a single T1 internet connection. Our family, now including visiting 'cousin' LMG, has swelled to over 60 with busy fingers on keyboards drinking up water/bandwidth with outbound and inbound traffic. I best get this message in a digital bottle and cast it off into the northbound stream.................