It hasn’t been all work and no play for us at Palmer station this season. Aside from plenty of indoor activities like movies, music, ping-pong, and pool, there is a lot of great outdoors to enjoy down here.
The Great Outdoors
The scenery alone makes sitting around and relaxing a great time. We’ve had plenty of nice sunsets, and watching how quickly the ice can blow in still amazes me. Earlier in the season the sunsets would last for hours, and run right into sunrise with no darkness in between.
And there’s always the glacier, if you want to hike up for an even better view. The flags mark the edge of a safe hiking area. If you cross them, look out, you’re in danger of falling into a crevasse and spending the rest of the season down there. From up here you can see all of the islands surrounding Palmer station, and beyond. Unfortunately we picked a pretty stormy day for this trek…
We’ve been able to camp out quite a few nights. Some people do almost every day. There’s not much wood around to start a campfire with, but the weather has been awesome and hardly ever too cold. No dorm room on station can beat camping out in the backyard – it’s really amazing to wake up in the morning to the grunting call of a leopard seal or the splash of a big piece of ice falling off the glacier.
At first, the 24 hour sunlight was a bit too much, and we would have to pull our hats over our eyes to get some zZzZz’s in the tent, but now it’s getting pretty dark at night and we almost have “normal” sunrises and sunsets.
Even though the penguins get most of the attention, they’re not the only birds around. The brown skuas are my personal favorite. These guys are pretty intense, and have a reputation for dive-bombing scientists that wander too close to their nesting sites. They’ll also snatch up the occasional penguin chick, if given the chance.
We even saw some grass out on Torgerson! It sounds boring, I know, but it was NOT something I expected to see in Antarctica. There is actually a surprising amount of green stuff down here, in small patches. Most the “plant” life is in the water, as phytoplankton or kelp.
You don’t need to get on a boat to see the wildlife around here, though. Just step outside the lab and there’s usually something going on, like lazy seals floating by on ice floes and the other oft-forgotten bird, the noble Showy Sheathbill (probably the animal we see hanging around the most).
Hope this was a nice little break, I know it was for us. Next up….more science!