Palmer Station was just a few small specks of incandescent light encased in a field of darkness, framed by a handful of stars peeking dimly through the clouds. Katrin, Bill, Joanna, and I watched from the aft
deck of the R/V Gould as the specks disappeared one by one behind
Bonaparte Point, eventually leaving one lone speck glowing from atop a
high point on the station.
In the darkness we could see the dim outlines
of the islands near the edge of the two mile small boat limit that had
been the boundary of our physical world for the last two months. Janus,
Eichorst, Hermit, Laggard. We passed through that boundary and away from
We were exhausted. Sustaining a high level of productivity in the lab
and field down here is physically and mentally demanding. The last
couple weeks in particular have been exceptionally so. With the
bioassays cranking out information and and much of the chemistry
progressing well past the early processing stages, academically this has been a most exciting time. As that time drew closer and closer to the end, motivation to get every last bit of data we could before leaving
That is the normal way of a field season. We have milked our project and ourselves for every last bit of data and of energy and, as again is normal at the end of a field season, we are all longing for home, for rest, and for dear friends and family.
But we leave dear friends behind too. Just moments before we watched
from the deck as they stood on the pier and on the snow covered rocks of Gamage Point handling the massive mooring lines from the ship. In succession and on cue, they cast the lines into Hero Inlet so that the Gould could withdraw those last physical bonds to Anvers Island. Spotlights emblazoned the area where the bow line handlers stood on boulders near the tip of the Point.
The stern line handlers were perched in darkness on the rocks beyond the dive locker, dim silhouettes accented by lines of reflective tape on their survival float coats. And just beneath us, the pier line handlers and other friends stood in easy earshot.
Mooring lines all off. Final quips and farewells exchanged as the
engines rumbled. A parting blast from the ship's horn. The lighted
buildings fading, becoming only the specks. The specks becoming only the one. Then nothing but the stars as we sailed into the night.
And on towards home.