19 November, 2000
Today we said goodbye to the Gould. The fine crew, scientists and assistants are making their way to Deception Island to complete their research. Deception Island is the home of an abandoned whaling station. They say that on a clear day you can see whale bones at the bottom of the bay. It is an eerie place to visit with so much deserted equipment and food still on shelves I'm told.
As the Gould was departing ten of people on station jumped or dived into the freezing waters. This was explained to me as a tradition at Palmer Station. Whenever a ship left some one would jump in. A young man that was leaving on the Gould, Johann, had been on station for a continuous 18 months. That was a station record. To show their great respect for Johann, and to keep the tradition alive, ten people leaped into the icy waters. It was quite a show. Afterwards the ten jumpers made their way to the hot tub and hot showers.
After the Gould left, it was time for my zodiac training. Zodiac training is very important to scientists at Palmer Station. They must be able to get to the Islands to study penguins and various other animal species. They must also be able to get to water testing sites around the bay. The only way to do that is by boat. So all in-coming personnel goes through zodiac training.
Since I would be working with Ray Smith taking water sample and deploying equipment into the water, zodiac training was a must. I have never powered any kind of boat other than a rowboat. I was nervous to put it lightly. The first part of the training was watching a safety video. The weather at Palmer Station can change rapidly. Antarctica weather can be very hostile. This makes boating safety very important. Palmer Station gets iced in during high winds making it impossible to land a zodiac. Since this happens they have placed emergency caches on many of the nearby islands. The cache is composed of a tent, food, sleeping bag, a camp stove, fuel, water and other supplies.
To complete the first part of the course you must pass a test. I'm sure that makes my students happy that I'm being tested. Yes, I passed. The second part of the boating course was to actually drive the boat. We were taught the proper procedures for checking out a zodiac. It must be checked over to ensure it is in good condition and that everything is on board before you start the engine. We all had an opportunity to start the motor and steer around a few islands and land the boat. It was a blast. I'm looking forward to using them over the next few weeks.
While we were learning how to use the zodiac we stopped on Torgersen Island. This Island was full of penguins.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's story and pictures of the Adelie penguins of Torgersen Island.
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