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UAB in Antarctica

Palmer station has a maximum capacity of only 45, so everyone living here gets to know each other really well and really fast. Most evenings there’s some fun activity going on, which varies depending on who’s on station and what they’re interested in, but this season so far we have been having a scary movie series, video game competitions, card games, yoga, hiking outings and lots more.   One afternoon Hannah and I plus other station folks walked up the glacier to take in the sites (see photo of us below). 

Hannah and Addie pose -- there is open water and then more glacier behind them.

There is a big white board in the galley where anyone can reserve a time for an event which works great to get the word out on station. One of the highlights for me has been flying through season two of American Horror Story, which most of us had seen before but forgot the whole plot of. Rewatching it was very nostalgic, and all the plot twists shocked me just as much as the first time. We do a lot of science here but try to incorporate some fun whenever possible too. There’s a tradition of dressing up for Chuck’s birthday, so last week Hannah and I pulled out the shark and unicorn costumes to greet him for our morning meeting.


Being away from your normal friends and family, in different time zones and with limited ability to communicate, is definitely a challenge, but the culture on station is very friendly and welcoming, which has made the adjustment much easier. I felt a little awkward about finding a table to sit at when I first got here and didn’t know anyone, but people were so fast to invite me to sit with them and strike up a conversation, and that went a long way to making me feel like part of the community here. I’ve ended up making really good friends, some who are sadly leaving way too soon on the next boat, but the overall feeling on station is that we’re all in this together and want to support each other in our work and our research here.

Every week, everyone has a couple of duties to help keep the station running and looking nice. Everyone does GASH (Galley And Scullery Help) once a week with a small group, which involves cleaning the dining area and kitchen after dinner, restocking snacks and cleaning supplies, and putting up the dishes from the day. On Saturdays, we also have “house mouse,” which is a period of a couple hours where everyone gets a randomly assigned task around the station and dedicates that time to completing it. So far, I’ve gotten jobs cleaning the kitchen, the popcorn machine in the lounge, and the storage area. Although the popcorn machine put up a fight, I’ve found that I actually really like helping with GASH and house mouse and it makes me feel more like a part of a team here.

The popcorn machine, glowing with reddish orange light.

Some people leave and new people come every time the LMG visits, so there are a lot of changes to the Palmer population, which can be a good thing and bad thing. It’s exciting to get to meet newcomers and see our boat friends who stayed on the cruise when we got off, but saying goodbye to the people leaving is also hard. Most people here are from different states, or even countries, so, unless you’re both planning on doing another field season, once someone leaves you probably won’t see them again. It feels weird to go from spending time with someone every day to not seeing them at all, but knowing the time I’ll spend here is finite I also think makes me appreciate the people in a different way.