Top ‘o the mornin’ from the top o’ the glacier I announced to Palmer’s neighborhood several times since my last journal entry. Instead of hitting the gym at dawn to cycle or run to work on a stationary toy, I sometimes start the day by hiking or skiing up the glacier.
The snow cover on the big ice cube that rises up behind the station up to the flat Marr Piedmont has been marginal for both activities, but I find being on and atop the glacier an exhilarating and refreshing way to ease into a new day. In less than an hour I can commute to work via the glacier – either on foot or skis! Pretty sweet.
From the top of the glacier, the views of our own Anvers Island can be quite stunning. Most mornings though last week the giant snowdrift Mt. Francais and imposing Mt. William remained tucked into fluffy clouds. Our neighboring islands rarely hide out of sight. See my view of some of these locals, lying to the north of station - on this particular morn neath a patchwork quilt of light snow cover.
Notice anything about odd about the scenery??? And most of the scenery shots other team members have posted?? We live in an environment dominated primarily by shades of black, white and blue. Occasionally there are splashes of color – orange beaks on gentoos for instance.
One of my favorite colors is green and since I am writing this entry on St Patrick’s Day while wearing green, me self (Maggie O’Leary Amsler) think it only fitting to write about the green of Palmer.
Green shamrocks bedeck the walls of the dining room today. Green eye shadow, moustaches or hair have appeared on some Palmerites. As Jim described in his latest journal, the Gould arrived last week with not only fresh green faces (Alan) but with fresh fruit and vegetables. Station refrigerators brim with fresh greens of lettuce, basil, cilantro, celery, peppers, granny smiths, bananas (soon to yellow we hope). These greens will alas be ephemeral, short-lived as our station of 44 enjoys big salads while the supply lasts. And of course, there are splashes of UAB blazer green on shirts, hats, stickers, notebooks, etc.
More permanent shades of green can be found around station. Antarctica, as you know, lacks trees on land. We like to say the forests are underwater as thick and luxurious stands of algae. You may be surprised to know that there are two vascular plants and a number of mosses that can be found on land.
Deschampsia antarctica is the long scientific name for one of the small vascular or land plants found in this neck of the woods. It is commonly called the Antarctic hair grass. It is indeed a grass and grows in small tufts barely reaching 4 inches high. We don’t need to take turns mowing the lawn here as it is pretty patchy in distribution. In some spots though the little tufts can form mini meadows as in the image I posted. This could be a nice (ant-free!) picnic spot – just don’t sit in the patches of snow!
The hair grass flowers and goes to seed just like any grass. Do the now dried flower heads in the close up look familiar? These are similar to the flowers on grasses in your lawn.
The other land plant is even smaller than its cousin and goes by the name Collobanthus quitensis. This plant is a small cushion-like forb, also known as a pearlwort, and is the world’s southernmost living dicot . Too much botanicalese!?? Ok – how about it is a distant relative of the chrysanthemum – the common boutonnière flower- like the green dyed one in lapels at St Paddy’s Day celebrations.
Colobanthus can be pretty inconspicuous and sometimes blends in with the hair grass. Look for its low growing foliage next to the quarter-sized limpet shell in the still life picture I posted. It flowers with tiny 5-petaled yellow blossoms. I had to be here earlier in the summer to get its picture in flower. In seasons past I have delighted in seeing floral arrangements of both plants blooming at the same time.
Other greens in Mother Nature’s Antarctic pallet include velvety carpets of moss. On some of the neighboring islands, the moss growth is very old and as such very dense and thick. Nearby Litchfield Island has been off limits to human boot traffic for years in order to preserve the golf course fairway sized moss fields dated as several centuries old. Fur seals, like the pair in my photo (on another island), like to frolic and romp on such soft green cushiony beds of moss.
Well Anvers Island and the Palmer neighborhood will probably never be referred to as an Emerald Isle or the Green Fields of Antarctica. It will always be dear old rocky, icy sod to me– Anvers go braugh! (Gaelic for Anvers Forever!)