Friday, October 11, 2013

Life goes on

Not much to report here at Palmer; the ship is still here for the next few days and on the surface at least, life is continuing as normal.  The scientists that came down on the ship are frantically scrambling to get any data collection done that they can, but it's not nearly enough to offset how catastrophic this is for them.  Many of the researches that were coming in for the summer are grad students working on Masters or PhD programs; having the rug pulled out from under them like this puts their degrees in jeopardy. Their thesis projects, which many have put many years of work into planning and researching, were relying on the data that was to be collected this field season.  Without that data, they've got nothing.  No thesis, and consequently no degree.

On the support side, we're doing everything we can; cargo needs to be moved as usual, but most of it is going in the wrong direction.  We expected to be unloading things from the ship, not packing it up.


Most people are maintaining their sanity by focusing on only what's directly in front of them, the work that needs to be done right now.  The ship is currently scheduled to depart station on Thursday the 16th, to arrive back in Chile on the 20th or 21st.  After everyone is flown back to the US, I know many people are at a loss for what they're going to do.

Many of the people that work here, especially on the support side of things, are experienced workers who are accustomed to the contract lifestyle.  We work for a season, save everything we make while working, and then rely on the money we save while working to get us through the off season.  Then come September/October as the money is running out, it's time to go back to work.  So this comes at the worst possible time for us; people were only just able to start building their reserves back up, and now are being sent back to a very uncertain future.  Most of us don't even have "homes" to go back to, or have already rented out their houses or ended leases on apartments.

And things are still changing, hour by hour.  The number of people staying on station has been raised to 12, and possibly 13; we're getting conflicting numbers from different sources and much of this is still being worked out.

For as many issues as we're having at Palmer, this is nothing compared to the logistical nightmare that's going on right now on the other side of the planet, at South Pole, McMurdo and Christchurch.   The constant flow of cargo and equipment from the US to McMurdo has seized up, resulting in logjams of parts and materials piling up at the logistics checkpoints with no one sure what to do with them.  Hundreds of incoming workers are idled in Christchurch ("Cheech") while they await their fates on if they'll be needed down south, or if they'll be sent back to their points of origin.  Numerous groups have sprung up on Facebook, including "Ice friends helping Ice friends", for current and former workers to assist each other in finding places to stay, finding some sort of work, and generally to support to each other in these chaotic times. 

So we take things hour by hour.  I want to end this on some kind of uplifting note, to say something positive about how we'll all get through this and it'll be fine.  But I'm not sure it will be.

4 comments:

Kyle said...

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and have already become attached. You are a great writer. :o) So I just wanted to express my condolences at the goings-on down there. For a lot of U.S. citizens life goes on as normal, unless we wanted to visit a national park, there really haven't been any changes. So it's heartbreaking to read about thesis projects getting destroyed and people going home to, well, no home, and no job. I am so sorry.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I hate that this happening. I hope there is a good answer soon. lives are being hurt or even destroyed because of some messed up ideological thought process.

John said...

Sorry to hear that, man. Good thing is you've got enough supplies, and you're likely to be staying the season. The Government Shutdown is a prime example of how a ridiculous political ploy screws up real people's lives. Politicians aren't worth any more than the rest of us (if anything, their contributions are worth less), yet they seem to play average citizens like pawns in a chess game. I just found this blog today, also from the Penguin video, and overall, your story resonates with me. I'm also a tall skinny guy (still in high-school though), I'm pretty skilled with computers, and I've always been fascinated with Antarctica. Take comfort in knowing your blog is still gaining new followers.

Kim Bernard said...

Thanks for the updates, it's hard to get good information about what's happening down there. This is just such a devastating situation.