26 January, 1998
Land-Ho! We finally made it to Palmer Station. Palmer Station is very small compared to McMurdo Station, which is more like a complete city. Palmer is located on an island right off of the peninsula.
As we approached the dock, there was an iceberg in front of the dock. The captain went to the side of the berg using the iceberg as a fulcrum to pivot around the berg. By doing this we swung around right next to the dock. Most of the day has been spent unloading supplies to Palmer and loading on Palmer's trash. They have not had a supply vessel since April!
I walked around the station and found elephant seals lying about. Unfortunately, I couldn't get close enough to them to get a clear picture. I will try for a penguin picture this evening, as I am supposed to ride out to the nesting area called a rookery on a small island nearby. Otherwise I was occupied today by helping weigh chemicals to make testing reagents.
Seeing all of the icebergs made me glad we had a safety check (drill) on the rigid lifeboats. The are two of these lifeboats and each one can hold 44 people, more than the number of people who reside on the entire ship. The lifeboats are heated and completely enclosed. It even has a cupola (small enclosed rise on the top of the lifeboat that has a window for viewing) so the one steering the lifeboat can do so from inside. There are also 2 inflatable life boats, but they are not enclosed. If the captain determines that there is a life-threatening problem with the ship, the signal to get into our mustang survival suits and board the lifeboat is 7 short blasts followed by one long one.
We didn't have any problems, though the Gerlache Straits were filled with outstanding icebergs of startling blue and white hues. Every once in awhile we would pass an iceberg with Adelie penguins on it. One time, the iceberg not only had penguins, but there was also a leopard seal patrolling around the edges looking for a meal! I also spotted one humpback whale about a mile away and three minke whales. Size and the shape of the dorsal fin help in determining the species of whale being seen. There are many skuas here. Cape petrels kept us company for the second half of the passage.
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