20 March, 1999
March 20, 1999
Hi from the Antarctic Peninsula! We had an awesome day today! To begin with, it WASN'T foggy outside . . . and we could see the mountains and the glaciers. Secondly, we went to Palmer Station. The ship had some cargo to unload at Palmer Station, and there were five passengers that came aboard our ship for the trip to Chile. We spent a total of about four hours there, and we were even able to climb aboard zodiacs (inflatable rubber rafts with outboard motors) and go ashore! While we were there, we walked around and saw the buildings, visited with some of the people that are going to remain at Palmer Station for the winter, and walked up to the glacier that's about 0.5 miles from the station. Once we returned to the ship, we were greeted with BBQ chicken (Ernest had the grill going while we went ashore)! Yummm . . .
So, let's look at our question for today: "Why do you suppose that we can stop at Palmer Station, but McMurdo Station (where we started out) is already closed for the winter? The answer is in our latitude! Palmer Station is the only U.S. Antarctic station north of the Antarctic Circle. The temperature is much more mild at Palmer Station, with monthly temperatures ranging from +18 degrees Fahrenheit in July and August to +36 degrees Fahrenheit in January. The average temperature at Palmer Station is about 27 degrees Fahrenheit -- much different from an average of 0 degrees Fahrenheit at McMurdo Station and -56 degrees Fahrenheit at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station! It was warm enough that we even had a few sprinkles of rain while we were walking around. Palmer Station has recorded rain during every month of the year. The record for precipitation at Palmer Station was 1981 . . . when they received 10 inches of rain and over 100 inches of snowfall!
Palmer Station is situated on the southwestern coast of Anvers Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. It's built on solid rock, and consists of two major buildings, three smaller buildings, two large fuel tanks, a helicopter pad, and a dock. Although no planes are able to land at Palmer Station, it is accessible to icebreakers (like the NBP) any month of the year. Usually, ships arrive at Palmer by crossing the Drake Passage from South America. All of Palmer Station's supplies are brought by ship -- mail, personnel, cargo, food, scientific equipment, etc. Large ships, like the Nathaniel B. Palmer, are not able to pull right up to the dock at the station. As a result, the ships remain out in the deeper water while the people and the cargo ride zodiacs to get to shore.
Palmer Station is not as large as the other U.S. research stations in Antarctica. During the summer, the population reaches about 43, but during the winter it's down to about 20. Due to its location on the Antarctic Peninsula, a lot of biological studies are conducted there. It is also used for the studies of meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, glaciology, and geology . . . and it's been designated as a Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site by the National Science Foundation.
Palmer Station (like our ship, the Nathaniel B. Palmer) is named for Nathaniel Brown Palmer. He was a sealer from Connecticut who left his home at the age of 14 to go to sea. When Nathaniel Brown Palmer was 21 years old, he was the captain of a 46 foot sloop called the Hero and was on his second sealing voyage to the South Shetlands. On November 16 and 17, 1820, the Hero entered Orleans Strait and came very close to land on the Antarctic Peninsula. Palmer was one of the first people to actually see the continent (although most sources agree that he probably saw it after both Bellingshausen and Bransfield). In addition to both Palmer Station and the NBP, Palmer Land is the name given to the southern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula in his honor.
Today, I wanted to introduce the last of the people hired to work on the ship. We have talked about the employees of Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) like Captain Joe and J.P.. We have looked at the employees of Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) like Don Michaelson and Jesse Doren. The last person to discuss is Suzanne O'Hara. She lives with Jay Ardai (one of the MTs on this cruise) about 20 minutes north of New York City. She graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is an engineering university in Troy, New York. She has a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Earth Science. Suzanne works for Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University developing, designing, and building software for scientists and training people to use it.
Because Suzanne is so familiar with much of the software and hardware that is used for the Multibeam, she is often contracted to come aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer and help the scientists. On the NBP, she is mostly hired to work with groups that use the Multibeam a lot or groups that use a lot of CTDs. She has experience on many different ships from many different countries. She has spent a great deal of time on ships since 1985. From 1985 - 1992, she alternated working on ships and working in ice camps with scientists in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. For ice camps, they would set up camp (complete with computers and equipment) in tents that were on top of large pieces of floating ice. They would collect their data by drilling down through the ice -- but they weren't able to make decisions about where the ice would go. They just had to float wherever the ice went. Although ice camps were very interesting, Suzanne really feels like she has a family aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. In the last year, she has spent nearly 6 months aboard the NBP working for different groups. Although working aboard the ship doesn't provide as much of an opportunity to develop new software as she would sometimes like, she thinks that this is a very nice ship -- with nice people and good food -- and she really enjoys working here in Antarctica. Suzanne is especially pleased that she and Jay are working on the Palmer together right now. This is the first time in about two years that they have had the opportunity to sail together.
In Suzanne's introduction, we learned that she spent a great deal of time in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. What are some differences between these two locations? We'll look at that in tomorrow's journal. For tonight and tomorrow, we are planning to conduct some multibeam surveys along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Before too long, we will be leaving Antarctica and heading north across the Drake Passage. I will continue writing journals and sending back photos for as long as we have email connections (hopefully through next Saturday). I will write one last journal entry on Sunday (after I get home) to let you know about my return trip to the United States. Sometime before this expedition is complete, I would really appreciate it if all of you would sign the guestbook at my school's website. If you have a class of students that are following along on this journey, please include the grade level(s) of your classroom, the name of your school, and your location (city, state). If you are reading this journal from the TEA (Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic) website, click on the button "See Kim's journal with added links" in order to get to my school's web page. The guestbook can be found at the top of the calendar page. I hope you're enjoying this expedition as much as I am! I just can't believe how fast the days are flying by . . .
Latitude: 64 degrees 53 minutes South
Longitude: 63 degrees 42 minutes West
Temperature: 2.5 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 994.0 millibars
Wind Speed: 14.2 knots
Wind Direction: 040 degrees (from the Northeast)
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