Arriving at Palmer Station, Antarctica

The following entry is the second installment of several reports that Birmingham Audubon officer and board member Maggie Amsler sent to us during her most recent research trip to Palmer Station, Antarctica. Charles D. Amsler, Ph.D., and Margaret O. Amsler, M.S. are veteran Antarctic researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). For more about their work in the Antarctic, visit https://www.uab.edu/newsarchive/37618-antarctic-island-named-for-uab-researchers-charles-d-amsler-and-margaret-o-amsler. February 25, 2016 and http://www.uab.edu/antarctica/blog/maggie/148-palmer-station-the-nickel-tour-at-no-charge

February 25, 2016

Greetings from Antarctica – finally!!
I thought we would never reach 60 degrees south latitude! All the Fuegan statue toe rubbing by shipmates to ensure smooth and safe crossing of the Drake was not entirely successful. Safe yes – smooth not. The seas and wind conspired against the smooth but the Captain and mates ensured the safe by reducing ship speed and zig-zagging rather than taking a straight line across to our destination. For days there was naught to see but an endless expanse of wind-whipped cresting steely blue waves. 15-20 footers. Even the seabirds did not want to play outside. Here’s a typical view out my upper bunk cabin porthole, two stories above the waterline:

View from the ship.
The Laurence M. Gould still had a long bumpy way to go to Palmer Station on Anvers Island at 64 degrees south. First stop would be offshore Anvers Island to retrieve equipment left on the seafloor exactly one year ago 25 Feb. Or not attempt retrieval if the seas continued to be contrary. Well this morning, the sea apparently wearied of its tantrums and calmed down enough for working out on deck. The sky even blued up allowing crisp viewing of the season’s first iceberg:

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Neptune must have been tired from storming too and neither siren-jammed nor permanently silenced the electronic chirp from each of the three moorings. With no dress rehearsal the computer wizard ETs (electronic techs), able-bodied MTs (marine techs), bridge crew and even passengers orchestrated actions to bring each on board. The ETs electronically found the 400m deep buoys, sent a release signal to float up to surface. Volunteer spotters lined the deck scanning the waves for a big yellow bobber. Once sighted the helmsman would finesse the ship almost on top of the buoy, nudge the ship forward so the buoy floated down along the starboard side of the vessel. The MTs were ready at the rail with grappling hook on a rope to snare it and haul its 40 lbs:

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Including precious payload of the paired fountain pen-sized data loggers onboard:

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Three different buoys three different locations same symphonic arrangement – perfection! Bravo bravo to all!! Special thanks to super spotters Dave van Horn and Uffe Nielsen of Becky Ball’s soil science group for sighting the buoys.
Friday the LMG will support Becky’s first soil science collection on Biscoe Point, Anvers Is. Later that afternoon we should dock at Palmer Station! Keep an eye on the ship tracker website and also check on Palmer webcam to watch the ship dock: http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/palwebcam.cfm
Our group should will Palmer’s granite ground running so it might be awhile before I get back to you. In the meantime, I will again borrow from our inactive website UAB in Antarctica and take you on a virtual tour of Palmer Station now:
http://www.uab.edu/antarctica/blog/maggie/148-palmer-station-the-nickel-tour-at-no-charge
Wishing you both smooth and safe transits in all your activities!
Cheers,
Maggie Amsler
Department of Biology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Currently in transit to Palmer Station, Antarctica