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UAB in Antarctica

If you are out at remote field station and you need something specific or something breaks, you are either lucky and have spare parts around or you need to be inventive and build it yourself. And this is true for the support staff (chef, plumber, electrician, mechanic …) as well as us scientists. Improvising requires being creative as well as having the skills to build whatever it is that you need. Therefore, it is not surprising that we have a bunch of talented people on station who spend their free time creating beautiful art in Antarctica.


However, I cannot neglect to mention those who are here and artists by trade. Karen Romano Young (www.antarcticlog.com) joined one of the science groups down here through the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program by the National Science Foundation which awarded her the necessary grant. It is her first time to Antarctica but she is already looking forward to returning next year on a cruise to the Amundsen Sea on the JOIDES Resolution. Back at home she is a children’s book author and illustrator as well as an education outreach consultant. Her main objective here is to publish science comics on a regular basis (click here for more amazing comics). However, one of the things she enjoys the most, is that she is not just an observer documenting what is happening, but also a field assistant who can get her hands wet and cold. Her face showed a wide smile when she described how she looked up from the sampling on the boat and saw the snowy mountains in the distance with penguins porpoising in the glistening sun.

Palmer Art Show

Just as we arrived on station, the carpenter shop hosted an art night on our first Saturday. The chefs produced some amazing finger food (art in itself) which we ate whilst admiring everyone else’s art. One of the permanent pieces is depicted in the very first picture. Marissa, the summer Research Associate, drew the opening image leopard seal and I think it perfectly depicts how art and our jobs down here combine. Other than that, there was a wide array of art displayed: photographs, a video, someone was playing the piano, drawings, digital art, knitting, jewelry, photo frames from scrap wood and many other things.

Palmer Art Exhibit

All this was orchestrated by Zenobia Evans (aka Zee), our Facilities Maintenance Coordinator. She has been coming to Antarctica for 20 seasons now and is a pillar of the community I would not want to miss. Zee also organizes “Sunday morning art” where she basically brings out all available art supplies (people over time have brought a lot of things which they leave behind and can be used by the community) and sets them out in the lounge. Anyone can come in and join for however long they would like and work on whichever project their heart desires.

Zee says: “Everybody can do something artistic, they just have to find out what their artistic niche is. Because there is an artist in all of us.”


Zee also recently took portraits of anyone who wanted to. Her original idea was to take pictures of the wintering crew at the beginning and at the end of winter to document their change. Even though we are not here for the entire winter, we could not miss this opportunity and fondly remembered the last time we had our portraits taken (for most of us this was during our time in highschool, apart from passport and driver’s license pictures).  (Chuck had very little warning and was interrupted during his gym routine for our group portait - but I think his attire just adds to the artistic value.)


Another aspect of our science work here is to press seaweeds and take them back for herbarium collections (see one of my previous blogpost about their importance: "What’s your name"). Whilst these particular presses from Antarctica will not be displayed as art, I would certainly like to argue that they look beautiful (but maybe I am biased …).


There are many more examples of art here on station which I have neglected to mention here but for today this will have to do as there is a magnificent sunset happening outside which needs to be documented.