The seasons are changing, ice climbing, and an Emperor penguin!

March 8, 2011 in Palmer Station by Kaycee Coleman

Garz infront of the boats after a snow storm

The sunny clear days of December and January are rare now at Palmer.  We’ve had several bad weather days so far in February and March which hinder our ability to go out and collect water samples.  With high winds, rain, and occasionally snow, we’ve been stuck indoors.  One night the winds even gusted up to 70 knots! Luckily the bad weather did not affect our ocean acidification experiment.  We’ve just completed our third round of this experiment (once on the Long Term Ecological research cruise, and twice here at Palmer).  Spanning 12 days the experiment looks at how different carbon dioxide gas concentrations affect community composition and the health of the organisms in the water.  Samples from this experiment look at phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses, nutrients and more.  While the first experiment was a struggle working out all the bugs, the second and third experiment ran smoothly.

Giant Petrel chick

There are also changes in the wild life around station.  The majority of the penguins have moved out, heading south where more sea ice can be found.  The occational penguin you do see is molting (which looks like an animal with mange).  The scientists who study the sea birds around station not only study penguins, but giant petrels, skuas, and other birds as well.  Their concentrations have shifted to measuring the growth of the giant petrel and skua chicks by weighing them, and looking at the length of their wings and beaks.



Fur seal at Old Palmer

Additionally there has been a change in the seal population.  The surrounding islands have been invaded by fur seals, nicknamed “fur dogs” for their whimpering and growling.  Packs of 30 have been seen on islands.  This is an issue for Yuta, who studies Belgica Antarctica (the largest Antarctic land animal…a midge).  Currently Yuta is the only “Bugger” on station, so when he goes out to collect his bugs he’s harassed by the fur seal packs which can be rather aggressive. Fur seal behavior can be seen by clicking this video link-> MVI_5478


The most exciting guest we’ve had on station comes from Royalty…an Emperor penguin!  According to some of the people who’ve worked here for several years, this is a rarity to have an emperor visit Palmer.  The little guy was found near one of the tent platforms in the backyard.  He had a rather large wound of his back, but it appeared to be healed.

Lastly, the Glacier Search and Rescue (GSAR) team was nice enough to organize an ice climbing event for us on one of our days off.  A bunch of us marched up the glacier to a crevasse where GSAR had the ropes and climbing equipment set up for us.  One after the other we repelled down into the crevasse and climbing back out.  There was a convenient snow bridge in the middle where you could stand and check out the beautiful blues around you.

Kaycee ice climbing. photo credit Kelsey Ducklow

Crossing "ankle biters" outside of the flag line on the glacier. We're all tied together by rope in case anyone falls into a hidden crevasse.

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