Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunday rounds

My boss asked me to re-do our guidebook that we give to whomever is tasked with doing the Sunday station rounds every week. Was I subtle enough on the new cover page?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tourist season starts tomorrow

It seems that we have visitors this week; a few hours ago, we got a radio call from a Chilean patrol boat who's in the area, asking if they could stop by for a visit.  They'll only be bringing about 20 people ashore, a tenth as many as the cruise ships will.  So this will be good practice for us to get the station ready for visitors, and to hone our tour speeches.

Believe it or not, we have a very busy tourist season here, and as a matter of goodwill and publicity, anyone who's in the vicinity is welcome to stop by the station.  We get a fair number of private yachts, sailboats, and smaller military craft stopping by, and as long as we have some warning we're happy to bring them ashore, and if it's a very small group will often invite them for dinner. Small cruise ships up to about 200 passengers we will usually let come ashore in groups; we'll give tours and have a meet-and-greet in the galley with the science teams.  Larger cruise ships would overrun our little island though, so for anything bigger we'll go out to the ship in Zodiacs, to do a lecture and Q&A on board.

We don't get paid a dime for this, from anyone, and we refuse to accept donations.  It's something we do for goodwill and to promote the USAP; many of the ships carry a lot of American citizens, and it's their tax dollars paying for all of this, so we owe it to them to show what it's spent on.

(And let's be honest, it's just fun)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Who wants to come visit?

If anyone's able to travel on super-short notice, and felt like coming to visit this little slide of weirdness that I call home, a friend of mine stumbled across a "Black Friday" sale on two of the cruise ships that will be visiting here this summer.

Quark Expeditions will be having a 2-for-1 sale on cruises sailing December 15th and January 13th, both are just under two weeks in length and will tour the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, including a stop by Palmer Station, where I'm living.  But to be fair, even with the sale, it's not exactly what you'd call affordable.  Especially when considering that airfare down to the embarkation point will probably run a couple thousand dollars itself.

You'd have to buy between 7:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 22nd and 9:00 p.m. EST on November 27th to take advantage of the sale.  Aside from getting a job here, it's probably the easiest way to visit the Antarctic!

Information here:
When to buy: Between 7:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 22nd and 9:00 p.m. EST on November 27th.

Read more:,12628/#ixzz2Co5HrHsb
Between 7:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 22nd and 9:00 p.m. EST on November 27th.

Read more:,12628/#ixzz2CnzWFEgz

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I could write a bunch about weekend hiking adventures on the outer islands, but I know that all you're really interested in is pictures of penguins.  Which I am happy to provide.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pants required

Every week we have a station meeting to go over various important things, and one of the topics is "Gentle Reminders", things that people need to stop doing, or do more of to make the community run smoother.  One of the "Gentle Reminders" last week was a request from out station manager to "Please wear pants in the galley; long johns or underwear are not appropriate dinner attire".

The only result of this "Gentle Reminder" was two nights later, when almost everyone on station showed up to dinner . . . in our long johns and underwear.

My boat boots make me sassy

The fastest way to get Ice People to do anything is to try and prevent them from doing it.

Monday, November 12, 2012


The big orange blob returned again a few days ago, bringing with it a few more scientists and some trades people to get started on the summer construction projects.  The last month has also seen a massive change in the climate; last time the LMG was here it had to spend a lot of time punching through some thick sea ice, but in the intervening weeks it's all thawed out and broken up.

I set up my camera at various places around station to catch the ice's movement, taking a photo once every ten seconds or so, for hours at a time.  Here's the results.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Occasionally, science actually looks as impressive as we want it to.

The vast majority of science that goes on here is marine-biology related, and for all of the studying baby penguins that happens, the vast majority of the lab work is boring as snot.  It's nothing like we (and hollywood) expect it to look.  At least, it usually isn't.

One of the groups here currently is studying disolved gasses in ocean water as a means to estimate bacterial bio-mass, and they've taken over half the aquarium with this Rube-Goldburg inspired setup.

One of the researches leading the project gave a talk about it last week, which mostly served to make me feel really stupid as it largely flew over my head.  But from what I gathered, they're sampling seawater from our intake pipe constantly, 24/7.  The plan is to have this running for most of the season I think, but it could be even longer if the funding comes through.  This sort of thing hasn't really been done before, and the researches had to design and build most of the equipment themselves.

Most of it is for permentant ongoing calibrations; to saturate a sample of water with a precise quantity of a known gas, to give the equipment something to compare the seawater samples to.  But the heart of the matter is this mass spectrometer, which gives ultra-precise and continuous readouts of exactly what is in the seawater.

Occasionally, science does look almost as impressive in real life as it does in the movies.  Now they just need to add more blinky lights and bubbling beakers full of colored liquid . . .

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You think YOU have a crappy job?

Don't complain about having a crappy day; mine quite literally involved poo.

During our weekly station cleaning known as "Housemouse", one of the people cleaning a bathroom notices a residue and wetness around the base of one of the toilets. 

I went over to take a look at it, gave the bolts holding it to the floor a tug . . . and they fell off in my hands.  They were completely corroded to the point of non-existence.

This isn't too suprising; to save on fresh water, we flush our toilets with filtered sea water, and the salt makes anything it comes in accidental contact with rust almost instantly.  Usually it's not a problem, but apparently the wax ring under the toilet had failed, and that allowed the sea water to contact the bolts.

Once I got the toilet pulled out, things got worse; the sea water had corroded the riser pipe to the flush valve so badly that it crumbled in my hand.  I was able to do this damage accidentally with just my fingers.

Pulled the toilet off, and found a whole mess of corrosion and . . . uh, rather not think about it.

But a few minutes with rubber gloves and a couple putty knives, and a new wax ring was in place and ready for the toilet to go back on.

 This is what I left a cushy IT job on a tropical island; to fix toilets on a frozen wasteland.

It's still the best decision I ever made.