Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PALMER STATION AGAIN

We returned for our second visit to Palmer Station, arriving as planned on the morning of Nov. 26th. The port call was needed to complete the cargo operations prevented by bad weather on our last visit and also to pick up scientists and Raytheon folks who returning from Palmer to Punta Arenas with us. Most of us also used the day for a quick trek up the Palmer glacier (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. A) Palmer Station seen in better weather at our second port call. B) Paola under a signpost at Palmer, including a marker for Stonington, CT. C) View of the ship from atop Palmer Glacier. D) Glacier hikers (from left) Joe, Melissa P., Chelsea, Melissa M., Katy, Peter. Photos Peter Wiebe.
During the afternoon, the Palmer Station residents generously arranged Zodiac trips –  complete with safety briefings, emergency rations, and tour guides – to a nearby Adelie penguin rookery. We all suited up and headed off for a close-up view of Antarctic wildlife (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. A) Adelie penguin rookery near Palmer Station; a charter sailboat is in the background. B) Paola and penguins. C) Climbing over the rocks on the island are (from left) Ann, Joe, and Paola. Photos Peter Wiebe.
Our visit to the island gave us a great look at Adelie penguins up close. They have fascinating – and cute – behaviors that make simply watching them great fun. The penguins coexist happily with elephant seals, but the skua tries to drive the birds off their nests to steal their eggs (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Adelie penguins being themselves: courtship display (A); snow bathing (B); and carrying a rock (C). D) A skua waits for an opportunity to steal eggs – but can also try to create one. E) An elephant seal keeping a watchful eye on us. Photos Peter Wiebe.
The next day, with our passengers and cargo aboard, we dropped the lines for departure. Once away from the dock, the Palmer Station residents bade farewell to their departing residents with a traditional display of affection and respect (Fig. 4). Brrrrrrrr!

Figure 4. Palmer Station residents turn out to see the LM GOULD off to Punta Arenas. A) Lines are dropped as we depart. B) Station folks gather at the dock. C and D) The traditional send-off for departing Palmer Station residents – a sign of affection and respect. Photos Peter Wiebe.
As we steamed away from Palmer Station, we were again treated to close-up views of stunning Antarctic scenery. The good weather gave us another chance to for up-close views of wildlife, including groups of crabeater seals hauled out on the ice (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. A) View of Palmer Station as the LM GOULD departs. B) Gathering on the 02 deck to view the sites, including crabeater seals hauled out on the ice. C) Paola (left) and Ann on deck for departure. Photos Peter Wiebe.
A bit later, we all headed out on deck again for a final view for this cruise of Neumayer Channel (Fig. 6). These mountains now look familiar to many of us. We will miss this vista!

Figure 6. Panoramic view of Neumayer Channel seen from the LM GOULD as we steam away and North toward Punta Arenas. Photo and photomerge by Peter Wiebe.
-- Ann Bucklin (University of Connecticut)

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