Archive for May 29, 2019

Antarctica (Day 2), Palmer Station (2019)

     When we woke up near Anvers Island on February 4 the weather was the opposite of what we saw the morning before.  It was very foggy so there was little to see.

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     With all the fog we didn’t spend much time outside during the morning, but there was a special event scheduled.  The United States has a science station on Anvers Island called Palmer Station.  Opened in 1968, it houses some 45 people in the summer and is primarily focused on marine biology.  The only US station north of the Antarctic Circle, it is named for Nathaniel B. Parker, the first American to see the Antarctic Peninsula in 1820.

    Last time we were here, in 2012, we could see Palmer Station in the distance:

But not today, thanks to the thick fog.  Nonetheless, a contingent of personnel from the station came out to the ship in a zodiac.  They have an arrangement with Holland America to give a presentation to the passengers on the ship and in exchange they get hot showers and hot meals and supplies to take back to the station.  We were not up yet when they boarded the ship around 6:30 AM but we did attend their presentation a few hours later. Several of them gave talks about life at the station and their scientific studies, then all six of them came on stage for a question and answer session.  It was all very interesting and gave us a connection to the US Antarctic program.  Particularly entertaining and informative was the doctor (in the green shirt), who explained that you don’t want to have a toothache while in Antarctica because he is the only one there who can treat it.

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     We were at the rail of the ship when they left around noon.  The zodiac from the station appeared out of the mist, then pulled up next to an opening in the ship at water level that must be a cargo loading dock.  A few of them stepped out from the ship into the zodiac, then they began loading supplies.  Box after box came out while we waited to see if there would be room left for all the humans.  From our viewpoint it looked like most of the boxes contained wine or soft drinks (lots of them), but there were also some bags of fruits & vegetables.  A tall stack of cargo boxes filled the middle of the boat so the people had to sit on the inflated sides as the boat left for the station.  A final wave, then it disappeared into the fog. 

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     We sailed northeast along the Antarctic Peninsula, but it was still quite foggy.

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     But by mid-afternoon when we reached Wilhelmina Bay (named  in 1897 for the Dutch queen) we had outrun most of the fog.  It was a beautiful area, looking even more so because we had spent so much of the day wrapped in fog.

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     We came upon some penguins on an iceberg.

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     Wilhelmina Bay is known for having a large population of whales.  It is nicknamed “Whale-mina Bay.”  We saw quite a few, many swimming in groups.

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     Four whales went by, looking like a motorcycle gang cruising for trouble. 

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   Some more penguins were sharing an iceberg with a napping seal.

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     A bunch of seals came cavorting near the ship, leaping in and out of the water, something we hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately they were swimming away from the ship so mostly we saw their back sides.

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     Well that was pretty much it for Day 2.  We did go into Hughes Bay (according to the map we were given) but not until about 8:30 at night while we were eating dinner.  So we think these last pictures are all from Wilhelmina Bay.

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