Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"May you live in interesting times."

The official word has come down from on high;  We're being put into caretaker mode, and science is effectively shut down for the rest of the season.

From the above link: "Under caretaker status, the USAP will be staffed at a minimal level to ensure human safety and preserve government property, including the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended."

For us here at Palmer, that means a reduction to just 11 people who are considered essential to keeping the station functioning; fortunately for me, I am one of them.  I will be staying on station for the foreseeable future, likely though the rest of the season, to maintain the buildings for when science can start back up.  But all of the scientists and science support personnel (like our lab manager, and instrument technician) are being sent home.

The LMG after docking at our pier yesterday evening

Our resupply ship arrived last night, bringing with it our bi-annual load of food and fuel, along with what was supposed to be the majority of the scientists and their equipment for the season.  But now that's all changed; everyone who came down on the ship is going to be getting right back on to head north, along with 2/3rds of the people already living on station.  My prior calculations about bunk spaces on the LMG were incorrect; seemingly in anticipation of this situation, they added an additional berthing milvan into the ship's cargo bay.  This brings their total passenger capacity to 38, allowing them to remove everyone from station except for 11 people, including myself, who have been deemed critical to life safety and preservation of property.

Along with myself, our power plant mechanic, electrician, and another building maintenance mechanic will be staying on station to fill all the construction and mechanic rolls.  We'll be joined by our SatComms tech, a single IT person, one cook, our doctor, a waste tech, science tech, and our station manager. 

The ship is going to stay on station for a week and a half, with the current plan to have it depart on the 16th or even a couple days later.  This is to give us enough time to complete the transition to caretaker mode, time to get everything and everyone onto the ship that has to be.  There was a lot of science equipment and supplies that were sent down in the past few months to be staged for the incoming science groups, but now it's not needed and has to get out of here.

There are still a thousand questions up in the air that we don't have answers to, as this is an unprecedented situation and no one is quite sure of how it's going to end.  When is the resupply boat going to make another trip down?  What will happen if Congress un-sticks itself and money comes back in?  Will the other support people be brought back?  How many science personnel could return?  How will we interact with the planned cruise ship visits over the summer?  When will we get to leave, and how?

It's all a perfect example of the ancient Chinese blessing/curse: "May you live in interesting times".


Jason - said...

Wow man, crazy stuff. Does this mean you'll likely have more free time to shoot wildlife and landscapes? I'd imagine once the transition is complete and maintenance falls into sequence it may leave you with a lot of free time. Or not?

Anonymous said...

This all sucks so bad, I'm sorry to hear this is happening.