After almost 4 full days of a rocking ship filled with 40 people fidgeting and waiting to do something we finally reached the first stop of our luxury (if cold, wet, and cramped conditions are now considered luxurious) cruise. The Copacabana field station is located on King George Island which is part of the South Shetland Islands around the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula. It is a sub-polar ecosystem populated by 3 species of penguins, elephant seals, fir seals and some other sea birds. We had four people on the boat we needed to drop off at the camp for a 6 month stint to do research. Also, it was nice to see land once again even if it was a mixture of white and brown (snow and rock), but there happened to be much more white than brown this early in the season.
Friday evening we rolled up to the island and with binoculars we could see the little field station. The wind was blowing strong enough to keep us at bay until the following morning. That night Travis and I happened to be up on the bridge hanging out with the mate on duty, and out of the blue we received a radio call from the Polish station on the same island. They called in and asked us if we would join them to celebrate a birthday. Our ship was invited to a Polish birthday party in Antarctica! Unfortunately, we had to decline with the business first mentality, but it sure would have made for interesting blogging if we had made it there.
The following day after lunch the wind was calm enough to send people over and start loading the supplies of the four crazy people that are going to live on the island. Everyone on the ship had to help out even if we were heading to Palmer Station. The R/V Gould had two zodiacs, small inflatable boats, that were going to be transferring supplies from the ship to the helpers on the island. Those helping on land had been given the option to be a surfer, a sherpa, or a sorter before we went out. The surfers would catch the zodiacs that were coming into the shore, maneuver the boat to keep the front, or the bow, facing the waves, which could flood the engine if a wave crashed over it, and then help unload the goods from the zodiac to the sherpas. The sherpas would take the supplies from the beach and haul them up a little hill and then another few hundred feet to reach Copa field camp. Once up the treacherous hill of loose rock sleds were used to haul the supplies about 100 meters to a cluster of shacks used for a base camp. The sorters, were inside the camp unpacking things, taking inventory and setting the place up for the four soon-to-be inhabitants.
Travis, Kim, myself and a few others were surfers braving the rocky terrain and ice cold water splashing us in the name of science! A few of us wiped out and were engulfed by waves and/or slipped on the rocks walking to shore letting in some water into our rubber suits. Let me just say there is nothing pleasant having water roughly 32 degrees farenheit touching your skin. Kaycee was a sherpa working her tail off moving all the supplies up to the camp and back for three hours straight. She definitely got her work out in that day. Meanwhile when Travis and I weren’t playing in the wash, we were busy freezing our fingertips off waiting on shore. I found out that there was a pinhole in my “waterproof” gloves pretty early and had to tough it out the entire time. I generally like the cold, but hypothermia just isn’t for me.
After everyone finished our jobs we said our goodbyes to the fearsome foursome staying, and traveled back to the ship to rest and resume the trip to our final destination … Palmer Station. All in all it was a great experience, but I was ready to start my new life in Antarctica where I will call home for the next 6 months.