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UAB in Antarctica
brashy Hero Inlet
My morning started with the wailing cry of seagulls – not an uncommon sound at seasides anywhere in the world. My seaside however did not include sand between toes or a tropical breeze. Rather, I was snuggled inside a down sleeping bag ensheathed in a bivy sack. Simple camping feet away from Hero Inlet and a 10 minute walk from station.

A thick gray ceiling meant no views of the distant mountains. The same clouds had prevented much in the way of stargazing as I was turning in hours earlier. A half-moon played peek- a-boo occasionally and the iconic constellation of this hemisphere - Crux, the Southern Cross – treated me with a cameo appearance. Clearer nights can reward gazers with stunning star vistas including the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds. No satellites to count as I was lulled to slumber by the soothing percussion of the ever shifting brash ice – a sound akin to using a brush on a snare drum.

Palmer morning fire

It was Sunday – the morning is our “day off”.  As it was deeply overcast, I returned to Station before the 9:15 sunrise and was delighted to be greeted by the pseudo-solar hues and views of a warming fire. I had a few leisure hours to enjoy before heading out at 1 pm for a planned pair of dives.

The last few days have brought what seems to be finally (!) lasting snowfall to Palmer. Winter has arrived. I took some time to stroll around the white grounds and check out my winterizing home. Long, toothy icicles hung from many of the roof eaves. Crystal daggers like these are a real hazard and are removed when dangling above doorways. Those outside the dive locker windows, shown below, present no such menace and will be allowed to continue growing and honing their glassy sculpture.


Unlike our project, the support staff, much deservedly, have the entire day off. Commonly, weather on a Sunday is notoriously poor but today was calm and mild prompting a variety of outdoor recreational activities. Some folks went hiking the glacier or skiing on the fresh snow of Palmer’s burgeoning winter wonderland. Others went out in zodiac boats to explore the nearby islands. I think just about everyone on station played outside at some point. The best part of the rare glorious Sunday is the many happy faces at day’s end and all the adventure stories that are joyously shared.

This weekend was designated City Nature Challenge – a worldwide count of wildlife. Resident Karen Romano Young registered Palmer Station as a city and invited all on station to report their wildlife observations for submission to this global database. Numerous station personnel cataloged bird, seal and plant sightings. I plan to submit the marine critters seen while diving ‘Palmer City’ and the wildlife encountered during transits. Check out the website and register your city for the 2019 Challenge: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2018-palmer-station-antarctica.

Palmers Day Off

Our afternoon dives did not go as planned. The first dive site option was nixed because the seas were a little too lively. Andrew motored us over to the second site, which was more protected and even sunny. The adjusted plan was to do a short dive here for two individuals of Himantothallus grandifolius for the ongoing snail survey and then do a longer dive at optional site three. At 13 minutes into the dive our collection bags were filled and we headed toward the surface, sun rays beaming through the overhead 20 feet of blue water. I smiled thinking Andrew and CJ had a pleasantly calm bubble-watching assignment.

With about five feet to go the overhead waters seemed to be roiling with choppy waves. The wind had jumped to 20 knots creating the sloppy chop and more importantly, pushing divers and zodiac toward the rocky shore. The routine of putting the boat in neutral while the divers ungeared in the water was abandoned. Quickly, collection bags were passed up to awaiting tender CJ. Chuck and I grabbed lines hanging off the zodiac’s bow and Andrew towed us away from the threatening rocks. Further from shore the zodiac was put in neutral yet still at the whim of the wind demanded a quick degearing. In short order (adrenalin-assisted) divers were onboard and all away from the perilous rocks. Dive site option three was abandoned and we headed slowly back to station under sunny skies buffeting a strong wind and salt spray.

Given the contrasting way Palmer’s Sunday off started and ended, I might include lamb and lion in my Nature City wildlife tally.