Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Departure of the Gould

"Line handlers to the pier !" was the call that rang out across the station.

Today was the day for departure of the Gould, the ship that brought us summer people in and is taking the winter people back to Chile. It gave me a reason to reflect on the changes that had taken place since I arrived a week ago. Of course I was more trained on my job, and I had gotten to know my co-workers. But I was thinking more about the changes in the water and sky. Since we arrived on an icy day, the sea ice in the harbor had moved in and out almost daily. I was fascinated by this phenomenon. On some mornings we awoke to find that the surface of the water was crowded thick with pancake ice, and then, just as suddenly, by afternoon the ice had moved on. Other days we watched big chunks of icebergs float in almost to station, twist and twirl and then, seemingly vanish. The ice almost seemed to breath. This morning the area in front of station was clear. We call the two bodies of water around our point Hero Inlet and Arthur Harbor and the ice had blown out from both overnight.

While it was here, the ship was tied up with enormous lines at the bow and stern, and the week of snow and ice since had frozen and buried them. When word came over the radios to free the ship, we went to work. Digging and hacking at the ice together, the seven of us on the stern team freed the lines.

The ship began to pull away and we waved goodbye. What to do next ? In commemoration of the departing crew, lots of folks participated in an uniquely Palmer tradition - the polar bear swim. Starting with Ken's backwards somersault, they lined up to jump into the -1 deg C water. Brrrrr....

All I can say about the swimming was that it looked very painful and was very short. This is a somewhat crazy place.

1 comment:

Neal said...

Everyone seems to have the same pained expression on their face when wearing the beaver tail.