Explore UAB

UAB in Antarctica

One of my favorite places to be is in a boat, but when I’m not out in a Zodiac in my sea boots and bright orange Hellies and float coat, I can often be found indoors, clad in much less conspicuous garb – well, unless you count my banana print Crocs as conspicuous. Where do my flashy feet and I spend time when I’m not dive tending or helping with the experiment? See the station from my perspective in this whimsical tour of Palmer featuring my main haunts and treasured station features.

Montage of quarter- sized single shelled mollusc, limpets, both the upper surface and the undersurface with tan-colored foot, encircled by short tentacles and mouth.

In my last entry, I included a picture of my bedroom; however, there is also a desk right by the door that’s not quite visible from that angle. The desk lamp in my room just so happens to have a little gold star sticker on it, presumably left by a previous resident. I have quite a penchant for gold stars; one of my personal mottos is that one should try to find a “gold star” in every day, meaning something sweet that adds a little twinkle to your day. It can be literal or figurative. My little desk lamp sticker wishes me luck every morning as I don my banana Crocs and head down a flight of stairs to the galley for our team’s morning meeting.

Small gold five point star-shaped sticker adhered to a white metallic light cover.

Our morning meetings usually take place by the fireplace, where you can look out across Hero Inlet through the large windows. Another friendly sight greets me there from atop the fireplace: a metal whale sculpture. Although aquatic invertebrates are my favorite animals to study, I appreciate aquatic mammals too. I’ve enjoyed many cetacean sightings from the LMG on the journey south and a few from Palmer. The sculpture also reminds me of my whale biologist friends, who left on the ship that took Addie home.

Whale sculpture; dining room of black topped dining tables with armless wood chairs, a black wood burning stove in corner – inset is black iron whale sculpture displayed on  stove.

After the morning meeting, I head down the stairs to the labs on the ground floor to prepare everything for spectrophotometry. The stairs used to be painted orange, and there are little spots where the current grey color is scratched or peeled, allowing small, round, orange and blackish splotches to peek through. These splotches are another of my cherished station quirks – they always make me think of orange M&Ms.

Gray metal stairs with chipped spots revealing previous orange paint.

Once I’ve finished with spec work and pH measurements, I often mosey into the science library by the labs to enter the data into spreadsheets. I also visit the science library frequently when I’m not working though. In addition to a few computers and printers, it has physical books on topics from glaciology to invertebrate biology to diving manuals. Some of them are so old and delicate you have to use gloves to handle them. The science library is a great place to read in quiet – at least, when the glass grinder right outside isn’t in use.

Small gold five point star-shaped sticker adhered to a white metallic light cover.

Throughout the day I often spend quite a bit of time in the aquarium (located by the labs on the opposite side of the science library) helping maintain the experiment – making sure the amphipods have enough algae and diatoms to eat, cleaning parts of the buckets when needed. When I pass by the touch tank, I like to check on the critters in there just to see what they’re up to and what color the fish is that day. As you can see in the opening image, the limpets have been hanging out very prominently lately. I’ve seen a couple of large molts – those pictured below are from one of the large amphipods and Spike, one of the large isopods. Some of the sea stars are tiny and yellow or orange, which again appeals to my fondness for little gold stars.

Montage of hiding spots for a 3-4 inch long reddish-brown fish – brown algae and red algae.

Once I’m done with work for the day, I often wander out of the BIO building, which contains the bedrooms, offices, galley, and labs, to entertain myself. If the weather is good and I’m feeling outdoorsy, I might take to the backyard to explore. In that case, I switch out my banana Crocs for hiking boots. Though hundreds if not thousands of treks have been made through the backyard by others, wandering around by myself I somehow feel each stone, ice chunk, and cove I pause at is a secret whispered only to me in that moment. After I’ve traversed the rocky grounds to my heart’s content, I like to find a quiet place by the water – whether it be Arthur Harbor, Hero Inlet, or a rain puddle – to sit and write.

Montage of crustacean molts amongst seaweed and a very small orange sea held in the palm of a hand.

Two other neat places I only visit during good weather are the rooftop of the GWR building and the hot tub. The rooftop can be accessed by climbing up a ladder from the second floor deck. It’s another good spot to write in solitude or simply look out over the whole station, the water, and the nearby islands. Sometimes sheathbills will join. The hot tub was created using a large cylindrical tank like the ones in the aquarium. It’s a nice place to just relax, let the heat work on sore muscles, and enjoy the view of the glacier.

Multiple views of rocks, boulders, scattered small snow banks and melt water ponds.

If the weather isn’t good, and lately it hasn’t been, I often turn to music. There is a room in GWR which has both a setup for ham radio and a few guitars. In this room I practiced my performance for last week’s open mic night, which was filled with incredible talent and jubilant revelry. There are also a couple of keyboards on station, one of which is often kept in the carpentry shop, where I sometimes practice after work hours. To the left of me in the image below, you can see one of the keyboards set up in the GWR lounge for open mic night. Open mic nights are typically scheduled during the LMG’s portcall at Palmer, so people from both the ship and the station can participate. This means Team UAB will likely get to participate in one more just before we go home.

Collage of aerial views of blue-sided buildings, surrounding blue water and icy glacier.

This “tour” is of course nowhere near comprehensive – these are simply my personal favorite spots. Writing this post, I’ve been reflecting on all the friends I’ve made, things I’ve learned both as a young scientist and in general, and the steps I’ve taken on my personal journey (many of those steps taken wearing some variation of Crocs). Looking back through all my photos of these unique, wonderful places and people will always evoke a skyful of fond memories, full of little gold stars twinkling sweetly.

Pair of photos showing dark haired girl seated on a stool playing guitar singing into a microphone and a red carpeted room with window at the end, with numerous stringed instruments hanging on the wall.