Wind Speed: 17 knots
It's a tradition for the youngest person on station to wear a diaper for the New Year's Eve party; Baby New Year and all. Kelsey rocked it. But she wasn't the only one in odd, revealing attire, as can be expected here. Our doctor, Liz, who you'll have seen many posts back dressed as the Starchild from KISS, wanted to sing a song; a KISS song, of course. We agreed, with the stipulation that she reprise the costume (because it was damn sexy, I'll say again). But, it hardly seemed fair not to dress up ourselves; or dress down, as it turned out. We decided to play a set, then all come out in costume after the break. Garz suggested swim trunks, scarf and hat, but whiskey had a better idea...
Rebecca and Phil thought it would be amusing to send Lily some, uh... items... to be screen printed and given to PQ and I. So, in our stockings at Christmas, and barely covering us at New Years... Superhero Underoos with "Get Awesome" screen printed on the butt. Damn you, whiskey. The rest of the band honored solidarity in boxxer briefs and a hat (and a few scarves). And that's the second reason the band was called Dirk Diggler's Demise that evening.
As it turns out, the birders, being the persuasive miscreants they are, had half the rest of station in women's clothing of some sort, so the band wasn't alone. I'll spare you the pictures (and myself the embarrassment), for the most part. But I do want to put this one in, because it perfectly freeze-frames the second turning point:
Within an hour, the floor held a quarter inch of water and everyone in the room was drenched through, head to toe. It made Kelsey's tackles more precarious, and there was definitely a soggy, scantily-clad dogpile or two. Certainly one of the more bizarre parties I've been to, but also one of the most fun. It's a funny thing, being able to drop conventional social barriers simply because you know everyone in the room so intimately, and they all recognize that social barriers are just that: conventional. We're not conventional, that's for sure. A conservative outsider may have looked in and seen an inappropriate near-orgy, but the reality is that it was completely without innuendo. It was very much like being a kid again. Imagine a bunch of innocent children playing in the sprinkler in the back yard... and then add booze, lots of booze.
This is probably more than you want to know, but since this blog has become as much a journal as a chronicle, I'm going to include anything I think I might enjoy revisiting down the road. That said, I did promise to include some more Antarctic things, so I'll also give you the first reason for naming the band Dirk Diggler's Demise. For that, I have to go back in time, again...
... all the way back to June, actually. That's when Mark Wall Berg arrived. This large iceberg lodged itself just beyond DeLaca and Janis Islands early in the winter and remained there through the the rest of the year. Most of it, anyway. The winter-overs named it for the sheer ice face on its right side:
You can see from the coloration of the water that the three sections above water are all connected below. Of course, Mark Wall Berg has been slowly falling apart since its arrival, but to give you an idea of it's size, here's Eddie and Alice gazing from DeLaca:
And now from a little closer; this next photo is taken from a boat on the other side of the iceberg, looking back at DeLaca. The section of the berg showing in the picture below is the farthest right point in the picture above. DeLaca is the taller island on the left, and Mt. Williams is the backdrop.
One day, while admiring Mark Wall Berg from Janis Island, I snapped this photo at the exact moment that a chunk of ice let go from the face of the berg. You'll probably have to load the full size picture to see it well, though.
That's Kim watching. She'll be back from the LTER cruise on the Gould in a week. I can't wait!
Mark Wall Berg almost made it into 2011. On December 30th, the majority of station was out on the Holland America cruise ship Veendam. Four Zodiacs were shuttling thirty people back to station, right past the berg. Just as we reached station, the cry went out; the demise of Mark Wall Berg had begun. About half of the berg seemed to disintegrate and collapse in on itself in slow motion, while the entire station watched. The timing could only have been better if Chris' camera had already been filming. Still, he caught half of it. This video, taken by Chris Schvarcz, starts with the small calving in the picture above and ends with the partial destruction of Mark Wall Berg:
It broke into two more pieces that quickly began drifting apart, leaving a wasteland of brash and growlers that Alice, Kim and I were able to explore immediately after.
This is the time of year that the ice is melting and calving at immense speed. It's common to hear cracks of thunder throughout the day as large slabs of ice drop into the ocean off the Marr Ice Piedmont behind station.
We watched this section of glacier for two days as it dropped bit by bit into Arthur Harbor. This is a combination of footage taken by myself and Chris:
The larger section overhanging the arch finally gave way in the middle of the night, much to our disappointment.
But, Chris continued to watch the glacier face diligently and was rewarded with a couple nice calving videos. Notice all the crabeater seals lazing on ice floes in the harbor:
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Wind Speed: 5 knots
I've neglected to blog lately because the weather has been amazing. For three weeks it's been perfectly calm and even sunny most of the time. I think that the long foul weather we had in October and November set a tone for the rest of the season; if it's nice out, we're going to take full advantage. So, I've spent the last few weeks boating and hiking and disc golfing and playing kubbs and enjoying homebrew on the porch.
So, stepping back in time once again...
The little band that we cobble together here changes it's name at every show. For our first show, we were Garzax. Garz, a charismatic scientist with the glider group, picked up the bass early in the season. Our electric bass was acquired from a military surplus depot of some sort, and was not quite as advertised. We were expecting a standard electric bass, but received this bad-ass ax instead:
Fretted bottom neck, fretless top. We called Garz, the bass, and the band, Garzax.
For the open mic night in December, Kim wanted to play the drums on a couple songs, and since she only had one arm to drum with, DeVal started throwing around Def Leppard references. My favorite was Cripple Kitty, which was somehow mistaken for Purple Titty, which somehow became the band's name that night. So, I present to you, Purple Titty:
Garz was super busy doing a special project, so I sat in on the bass for most of the show. And we didn't get video of anything that Kim played drums on, but I do have her singing a Norah Jones song. We had several false starts on this one, and I left a couple in because DeVal's gestures are pretty funny. Watch him on the right:
Open mic night also gives everyone an opportunity to do their own thing, so I've shamelessly included few songs that I did. This one's my own, called "Smile":
My roommate, Chris (aka C-Money, aka Coconuts) asked me to sing a song while he played the ukulele, Iz style. It wasn't quite like anything I've done before, but really fun. You'll recognize it:
This next one I wrote over the summer. It's a little dirty, but really funny. Some banter from the crowd put the icing on the cake. You Hood River kids might recognize some of it from sitting around a fire in the hills above Mosier. And, no, it's not autobiographical. "Neighborhood Watch":
The next day I heard a call on the radio: "Palmer Station, Palmer Station, this is the Neighborhood Watch, stalking around Station E". The "stretch that rhyme" comment came from Kate, a poet here on an Artists & Writers grant. Little did she know, Chris Neill was about to read a limerick about her, in which he really stretched the rhyme:
In her nifty bright orange float co-et.
On a cold swelly sea,
Out by Station C,
She called penguins right into the bo-et.
Kate was present on two different occasions when a penguin actually jumped into a Zodiac:
They say that people come to Antarctica, first for the adventure, then for the money, and then because they no longer fit in anywhere else. I don't think that's exactly right, but this photo has made me realize that my last few posts haven't been very specifically Antarctic. Instead they seem to be highlighting the people here, and the things they do. And I think that's fitting, because it's no longer just the adventure for me, it's very much the people. And the summers off, of course. I mean, the penguins are still fun to watch, and I get excited when I see a big glacier calving, but these things have lost the invigorating appeal they had when they were new experiences. What I find most intriguing now is the diversity and caliber of personalities that call Palmer home, if only temporarily. From plumbers to managers to microbiologists, we cover a broad spectrum of backgrounds within a miniscule population. Such a mix could easily foster tension and discord, but everyone here seems to have an attitude toward others, and toward life in general, that makes it all flow harmoniously. It's truly amazing.
So, with that said, I've definitely got some more Antarctic things to include here, and I promise to include them soon (as long as it's not nice and sunny out).
And, in case you haven't caught on yet, you can read all about December's happenings in the Antarctic Sun at http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/aroundTheContinent/contentHandler.cfm?id=1201. This time, Peter left a couple of my quips in.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Wind Speed: 1 knot
I feel like I'm jumping around in time a bit, but I'm so far behind on this blog that I think it will still be more or less chronological. I want to put a day in early December on the record. This day came shortly after the weather turned good. It was beautiful, calm, sunny, warm. It had to be all of these things to do what we did...
Lipps is an island that is exposed to swell. It's one of only a couple here that I never explored last season. Twice, early in this season, I attempted to remedy that situation when the ocean was relatively calm, but landing on Lipps seems to require complete calm. I finally made it on December 5th. Like all the islands here, and any other exposed land for that matter, Lipps is treacherously rocky and vegetated only with lichens and occasional mosses or short grass. But, like all the islands here, Lipps has its own character. On its northern side is a cove that provides an excellent, sheltered landing, as long as the tide isn't too low or the swell too high. On its southern side are ravine after ravine of tide pools, waves crashing in and out with little concern for the speed of your crossing. As I scurried across this rough shoreline, I found a small rock cliff with a frozen waterfall clinging to its face. The temperatures have risen above freezing at this point, and the snow melting from above was running down the rocks, but behind the ice, and making odd shadows through it:
On its eastern end, Lipps has a secret. Where the water has slowly eroded two intersecting cracks, "X" marks the spot. At the heart of the "X": a deep pool, connected to, but protected on all sides from, the open ocean. We chose the highest point on the rocks that wasn't sloped back too far; about 15 feet up. Jeff, Jenn and Nandi jumped in their skivvies, but I was unwilling to have wet underwear the rest of the afternoon...
It's amazing how much warmth can be absorbed from the radiating sun. On December 5th; water temperature: 33F; air temperature: 38F. Yet we sat topless in the sun for thirty minutes to dry off. Only when the breeze picked up did we start to feel chilled. But the breeze wasn't a bad thing, because D.Marie brought a kite!
After we all had a turn flying on Lipps and the wind died back down, we decided to head back to station, with the kite in tow. Here's Carolyn holding the speed steady...
while I flew the kite from the bow of the Zodiac.
Hmmm. It occurs to me that my appearance here may require some explanation. The fuzzy white hat was purchased off the head of Hannele, a member of the British Antarctic Survey visiting from Port Lockroy. The boys here thought it was a bit gay at first, but changed their minds when all the National Geographic Explorer girls wanted to rub my head.
The massive 'stache is another story. Apparently, several years back some Aussies decided it would be a good idea to grow moustaches through November to raise awareness and charity for men's health issues (that's right ladies, we've got issues too). This being the perfect opportunity to be charitable as well as weird, Antarcticans seem to latch right on (though we may have neglected the "charitable" part). Throughout the month of "Movember," disturbing collages of moustached men continued to appear on station, while we grew stubble to be shaped only at the last minute.
The moustache party:
At one point in the night, Zee asked if I had change for a dollar. Of course not. Money is no good here. I can't remember the last time I carried my wallet. I didn't find out until later what the hell she was talking about. Thanks to Dave for upgrading my status: