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April 15th, 2015 - Palmer Station, Antarctica

Finally, On and In the Water

by Andrew Klein

Andrew's head

Since arriving at Palmer Station on the 12th, the B-518 team has been busy getting ready to collect our samples. As stated in our previous blog post, the afternoon of the 12th was spent in numerous orientation meetings introducing us to all aspects of station life.

The Bio Building
The BIO building – one of two main buildings at Palmer Station.

The BIO building houses the labs, the main station offices and galley/lounge and berthings including Andrew and Steve’s whose window is in the upper right.

On the morning of the 13th our research efforts began in earnest.  In January, our group had a number of items shipped to Port Hueneme, California, where the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) has a facility. One of these items is a Google Trekker Backpack, but more about that in a future blog post. These items were transported to Punta Arenas, Chile, and then loaded onto the Gould for transport to Palmer along with the B-518 crew.  Steve and Andrew also packed a number of things in a fish crate last season that was transported north and stored in Punta Arenas for use this season.  Our fish crate came down to Palmer Station on the previous cruise and all these items were awaiting us on arrival.

So the crew spent the most of the day on the 13th unpacking these items and setting up our lab space. B-518 is extremely lucky this season as we have been assigned one lab bay and have access to a wonderful science office. In addition, we have the use of considerable space in the dive locker where Terry and Shawn Harper, the Antarctic Support Contract Diver helping us this season prepare for diving.

B-518's Lab
B-518’s lab space for this season

B-518's Office
B-518’s office space for this season
with a smiling Steve

On Tuesday the 14th, the crew spent part of the morning in the Boating 2 course which is required for us to man the zodiac boats that serve as the primary means of transport to the local islands in the vicinity of the station. Unfortunately, the B-518 crew could only complete the onshore portion of the course as strong winds from the southwest created large swells in the local area.  Boating is not permitted when winds are above 20 knots which they were for most of today.  Despite not being able to practice their boating skills, the B-518 team and Palmer Station Doctor Sarah Baddorf learned about the Zodiacs and what equipment is kept aboard the boats, how to set up the texts and use the stoves that are stored in the survival caches kept on most of the islands within the Palmer Station Boating Limits that the B-518 team will visit for our research.  For safety, boating at Palmer Station is restricted to an approximate 2 mile limit.

Palmer Station Boating Limit Map
Palmer Station Boating Limit Map for a full size image visit –http://www.usap.gov/USAPgov/sciencesupport/GIS/images/BoatingMap.gif
The team spent the rest of the 14th working in the lab and office and talking to the Palmer Station Manager Bob DeValentino about our research plans.

Overnight the winds dropped to nearly nothing and the B-518 team, Shawn and Sarah were able to do the practical side of Boating 2 in very calm weather.  This involved learning to pilot the Zodiacs, practicing landings and safely recovering someone who has fallen overboard.  It was slow going from Palmer as a large amount of brash ice had filled the local bay, but Sarah piloted the Zodiacs safely through the brash ice.

The B-518 team had a successful afternoon as Terry and Shawn did their checkout dive with Andrew and Steve “supervising” from the boat ramp.  The checkout dive was somewhat shortened as one of Terry’s gloves sprang a leak…nevertheless Shawn was able to make some measurements on the boat ramp required for some repairs.  One interesting, and important, aspect of Palmer Station is that it is necessary to inform the communication manager that divers are in the water. Because we were diving just off the station, we could hear the announcement over the intercom system that our divers where in the water.

Terry and Shawn on their practice dive
Terry and Shawn at the surface during their check out dive

Shawn working on boat rampShawn in shallow water measuring on the boat ramp.



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