7 October, 1995
Saturday, October 7, 1995
Yesterday a.m. we encountered the ice. Actually the night before, I saw my first iceberg through a pair of Russian made infrared goggles that the bridge watch was using. I had never had the opportunity to use that kind of equipment and it was awesome - not only from a technological standpoint, but the fact that you could actually see in the dark. Through my mind went the thought that this is what some animals really experience. It was almost an off earth experience because for human beings, that experience of night vision doesn't happen.
The speed at which ice is encountered is still, in my mind, something that occurred unreasonably fast. You don't enter Antarctica gradually like you enter different life zones crossing the State of Washington or the United States. The Drake Passage crossing was relatively calm with nice weather even though the barometer dropped 19 points. There were no visible signs of ice as the occasional blips of light indicating icebergs on the water. The morning brought icebergs, big icebergs. I know that I could not have prepared myself for this experience for it is unlike any travel I have ever done. The bergs dropped in on us almost immediately after encountering a certain latitude. Thick ice, covering an immensely large ocean. The whiteness of the ice, the expanse of the ice, the quietness of the ice and the size of the ice overwhelms the visual senses to say the least. As we move further south, they become more in number, not necessarily bigger for the first ones we encountered were huge. I am used to seeing glaciers on Mount Rainier, however those rivers of ice are mere streams compared to what I have seen.
We stopped at Station Copacobana, a U.S. research station on King George Island North located in Admiralty Bay. The wind, gusting to 50-60 mph kept us from going ashore immediately, and in this place humans do not determine what will happen. We waited. And, we waited. We tried crushing through the ice like an icebreaker can, but the Polar Duke didn't have the power to penetrate deeply, so we waited some more. I shot some video of superb scenery and sincerely hope it turns out. It is difficult to determine what it will look like because the area is so large, so immense and so white. At 1500 hours, the Polar Duke dropped two zodiacs and loaded for supplies for the 5-month stay of two 23 and 24 year recent college graduate women. They will live at Station Copa to study the behavior of penguins. We landed on an ice shelf off shore and hauled the supplies to the dorm style hut via sleds. Being aware that all experiences are relative to the individual, I at least now have the experience of pulling a snow and ice sled on the snow loaded with supplies as Scott, Amundson, and Shakleton did. Let me assure you, I did not go far (maybe 50 yards) , in fact in that situation you can hardly budge it. The most important person is the pusher to provide the inertia to make the sled move. The person pulling on the rope serves in my estimation as a steerer or guider that determines where the sled will go.
I have, now in my life, walked among the penguins. I have laid on the ground and shot video and pictures of birds that capture the hearts of most that see them. I literally mean that I have walked among them for they do not run. They have also walked among us. We re not the first, but it was the first for me, an experience that again questions my emotions regarding my understanding and realization as to where I really am. But the best is yet to come, this first day on the ice.
Later that afternoon as the wind picks up again and the sun drops behind the mountains, we are asked if we would like to visit the Polish research station Arctowski, around the corner from station Copa in Admiralty Bay. Four zodiacs of people, crew, scientists, and researchers go ashore and meet the Poles who have been over-wintering for the past year. I cannot explain how I felt shaking hands with a member of another country that displayed exuberance at our visit and I captured on video his explanation of the station spoken in Polish and I understood what he was saying, under the Polish and American flag with the full moon on the horizon. I felt, for those of you who can understand this, like an ambassador of not a nation but of good feeling, friendship and the human spirit.
This place overwhelms the emotions if you can let it and you are humbled not by just the size of what you see and experience, but by your own emotions as well. I went to sleep with a warm memory of a short little man who shook my hand and gave me a postcard of his station to remember him by, and also with an understanding that I am part of something immensely bigger that I ever imagined. Animals sitting on ice three feet away as a 215 foot ship cruises by, birds that land on the deck, seals that swim up to and behind a boat that is off loading supplies, and penguins that want to see what the commotion on the beach is about, pristine cleanliness with no pollution and people from another country happy to talk and share drink, food, and laughter are the components of a world that could be at peace.
We awoke Saturday morning steaming for Palmer Station and immediately encountered sea ice or pack ice. This ice is strange as you never know where you will encounter it. There will be large open stretches of water and then the ice. Packed solid into sheets that seem to have been welded together by natures' cold torch. Imagine being put in a fifty-gallon drum and then rolled down the freeway or over a rocky road for hours upon hours. That would just be a hint of how noisy this trip is especially when encountering the ice. Ear plugs at night are a necessity as well as a luxury. It seems as though there is heat present as the cold wind and chill factor seems to burn exposed ears and fingers at a great rate, especially when touching metal.
As the day progressed, the temperature moderated and rose to about zero. This and the fact that fog has moved in has made much of the day a work day for us on board, in preparation for the 30 day scientific cruise that has yet to begin. So far we have spent the time just getting to this location. Today is the 7th of October and I realize for the first time, we left Punta Arenas 4 days ago this afternoon. This will be a long cruise. Personalities have not clashed as everyone seems to get along quite well, however it is interesting to observe researchers shuck and jive to make sure that apart from the original research project that all will be working on, they will be able to spend time on their own pet projects.
As for me, I am having a few problems using Excel and importing data to graph. This is to Bill Pandiani; I have over 10,000 entries of salinity, temperature, latitude and longitude data you can graph with your class. I just did and the results were absolutely marvelous. Is that enough for you or do you want more. That is over 2000 per day. Ha, Ha. You could figure out a way to let kids screen the data and pick out every 10th, 50th, or 100th piece of data. You said you wanted data Bill. They need to plot it against a map of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctic Peninsula. I know that there are a few of you asking "What is he using EXCEL for"? I am because the principal investigator 's team is made up of IBM and MAC people and through default everyone's used this program because of similarities on both formats. John Gorow spent a great deal of time getting me checked out on the use of the program and I thought I had it, but you know what happens when you get involved with the real thing, memories go.
We should get to Palmer Station Sunday morning as the pack ice has slowed us down a considerable amount. We may not leave till Monday morning so there will be some free time involved there. When we leave, I will not touch land for thirty days unless we stop somewhere to explore. The work we do will entail rigorous and hard work and effort on all nine of us left on the ship. We may have to go to the Bellinghausen Sea in order to get out of the ice and to find the ozone hole. The satellite data is limited this year because of bad weather. There are many things I could write about, however, time becomes short and most of you know that I would prefer talking - I will write again and close by letting you know that it is 1902 hours, 64.33 south latitude and 62 degrees west longitude. Humidity is 96%, the air temp is -0.7 degrees celcius, and the water temp is -0.2 degrees, the salinity is 32.8 parts per thousand. I will leave now.
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