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April 28th - May 4th, 2014 - Palmer Station and the L.M. Gould

More time at Palmer and south aboard the Gould

by Steve Sweet

Steve Sweet

Another week down here on the ice, it has been an interesting and diverse week. Here is a quick timeline on our activities over the past week:

April 28-29: At Palmer Station
April 30: Sediment sampling on the LMG then Trawling
May 1: Arrive back at Palmer Station in the afternoon
May 2: Sediment sampling by the divers at Old Palmer and a control site near the station
May 3: Depart Palmer Station for Prospect Point
May 4: Prospect Point adventure

We spent Monday and Tuesday at Palmer Station, we spent some time getting our samples sorted out and to prepare them ultimately for shipment back to the lab. They are really quite organized when it comes to logistics here at the station, we have information to enter into their MOCA system, a MS Access based program. We went to a number of the station personnel for assistance and advice. Lineah, another old friend who was with us at McMurdo Station in the Crary Lab got us headed in the right direction. Juan gave us the boxes we need and made sure we understood how things worked and the shipping deadlines. We are planning on returning next year at around the same time, so we went to Juan to find out the procedure for storing supplies and equipment for next year. Palmer Station is not a large station, so we have to package up our stuff and it will then come back on the LMG with us and spend the year in Warehouse Ten until we get back.

On Wednesday we were ready to head back out to sea. We had an opportunity to collect some more Smith Mac grabs on the way out to the trawling site and again on the way back in on Thursday. The sampling went so well on this trip we finished all the samples that we had planned on collecting from the ship.

Friday we met up with Rob, Steve, and Jack, to collect some more samples for us. Two of these site were off the old Base N and Old Palmer Station, not too far away but still a fifteen or twenty minute zodiac ride. Rob and Steve collected samples at 40 feet and 60 feet of water depth along two transects while Jack took charge of the diving operations at the surface. I am still amazed at how easy the divers make collecting our samples from such a cold environment. They insisted that they weren’t cold, but I bet they were a little chilled by the time they were done. After those two site we headed back to station to collect a transect that might serve as a control for our studies. The wind had blown a lot of brash ice into the sampling area, so the divers had a bit of swim to get to the depths that we wanted. As usual they came up with great samples and we headed back to the station to process the samples.

The station personnel normally work six days a week, but this week they had one of their rare two day weekends. On Friday night they had swing dancing lessons followed with some practical use of the lessons. A lot of people were swinging the night away, I was content to be part of the onlookers as a good time was had by all.

Saturday morning was the start of another adventure for us, the weather was great and it was a nice sunrise. We were heading out, along with a number of folks from Palmer Station to set up a GPS site on Prospect Point about a day south of the station. Sunday was the big day, very low wind and fairly moderate temperatures awaited the team heading out to put in the site. Andrew was keen on heading out to them and he headed out for a National Geographic adventure.

The peak behind prospect point
A peak behind prospect point

Andrew helping to load zodiacs on deck
Andrew helping to load zodiacs on deck

The first zodiac approaches the short
The first zodiac approaches the shore

And it was a National Geographic adventure. The Gould was parked approximately one kilometer from the area where the GPS unit was to to be assembled. Passengers and cargo were transported to the site on several zodiac trips. It is quite a process to get the zodiacs in the water, passengers onto the boats and cargo lowered down as well. Andrew stayed on board until the last zodiac helping the marine techs with cargo.
The trip to shore was of National Geographic quality in terms of scenery. While there was open water next to the Gould near shore there was a lot of brash ice with small icebergs sticking one to three meters above the water. To get to shore the zodiacs had to navigate this labyrinth of moving ice. Boating through the labyrinth was very cool as the water was calm and one could see the blues and whites of the bergs below the water as we boated past. The water shallowed near shore and allowed fairly easy access to Prospect Point where we installed a UNAVCO (link here) GPS instrument that is part of a network to examine the isotatic rebound that occurs as ice is lost.

Andrew in a zodiac
Andrew in the Zodiac

Zodiacing to short
Zodiacing to Shore


Among the icebergs
Among the icebergs

The marine techs and Kevin did most of the intricate work while I helped in whatever capacity was needed – such as securing rocks to hold down the unit containing the batteries, electronics, iridium phone and solar panels. Tom did a wonderful job installing that actual GPS monument.
The weather was wonderful; I spent most of the morning in just a polar fleece and my very picturesque yellow Helly Hanson yellow pants. There was a lot of wildlife around as well – birds of many types, with white snow petrels being the dominant species in the air; a Weddell Seal also checked out our operations.

British Base J sign
Prospect Point was also home to British Base J

Zodiacs ashore
Zodiacs ashore with the Gould in the background

Tom installing monument
Tom Sigmond installing the GPS monument

The completed setup The completed setup

With a bit of work we finally got the GPS unit operational with confirmation by Iridium phone to UNAVCO in Denver. The wind picked up during the last half hour of work so folks boarded the zodiacs and headed for the Gould. We know that at least the divers will be appreciative of the work accomplished on this trip as it will mean that Gould will not have to leave Palmer Station heading north quite as soon as scheduled.


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