Across the Drake, a stop at COPACABANA, then onward to Palmer Station

November 2, 2011 in Palmer Station, Southbound by Kaycee Coleman

We’ve made it to Palmer Station, and while it is a bit icer and colder than last year most things are the same.  We’re set up in lab ten again, right next to the main entrace for easy access to the zodiacs.  It is also the biggest lab, so we have plenty of room to work on our Solcum gliders.

King Neptune granted us with another calm voyage across the Drake passage between Chile and Antarctica.  I was beginning to think that the Drake wasn’t living up to its reputation as one of the worst waters to cross; however the winter over crew leaving Palmer Station on the last boat had a rough crossing up to Chile, so it seems we made it to Palmer just in time to avoid some bad weather.

While we are crossing the Drake Passage we deploy expendable temperature and depth probes called XBTs.  That way we can monitor the changes in the Drake.  Usually the XBTs are deployed over the side of the boat out of what looks like a gun.  Once the probe reachs the bottom you cut the wire and the probe gets left behind but we get to keep the data.  Once we reached an area of high brash ice the boys got creative on how to deploy the XBT, here is a video showing their attempt. Deploying an XTB in High Ice

Sherpas moving supplies from the shore to COPAOn our way down we had the pleasure of helping set up the COPA field camp on King George Island again.  As some of you may recall last year that we helped put in COPA on our way down as well.  There are four penguin scientists who we dropped off at COPA.  The COPACABANA field station is unique because it has 3 penguin species (chinstraps, gentoos, and adelies) living together in harmony right outside their base. Here at Palmer we’ll only get two living together at a time depending on which island you go to. 

Surfers at work

Before we arrived at COPA, we divided into working groups to accomplish everything that needed to be done.  One group was  in the water nicknamed the surfers, they held the zodiacs in place when they came to shore and helped offload the cargo.  As seen on the left they are wearing water proof suits which kept them dry…unless if you fall in the water then you get some water down the front of the suit from the neck hole.  Another group was the sherpas, they transported the cargo from the shore to the station using sleds.  There were people on the boat putting the cargo in the zodiacs, people at COPA unpacking the cargo, and two zodiacs transporting the cargo back and forth. Josh and Travis were on the zodiacs, and I was a sherpa.  The field camp put in was better this year than last year mostly because of the weather.  The wind picked up from a little and it was still cold but the snow held off.  There was one benifit of it still being cold, in the summer there is a melt water “lake” in fron tof COPA which we had to cross to get to the station but with the temperature still low it was still frozen over.  We were able to accomplish the whole put in practically by lunch time, so we were able to enjoy a picnic that the cooks on the boat packed us on one of the sleds.  We left the four scientists with fond fair wells and hopes of a good season and proceeded on to Palmer station. 

Lifeboat in the water

On our way we also had a quick stop off at Duthiers point to repair a piece of science equipment.  Since the weather was nice Captain Joe decided to do a life boat drill.  It was neat to see the life boats in the water circling the Laurence M. Gould.  It was also reassuring that the life boats worked incase we ever actually needed to abandon ship.

As we arrived at Palmer station we had a large snow ball fight and then started to move cargo off the boat.  A week prior to our departure from the states, we had heard that the ice at Palmer Station was still thick enough to walk to the local islands. While it would have been amazing to see the station like that, the ice had all moved out by the time we arrived.  However the weather has been against us for this first week.  With winds from 30-50 knots, lots of brash ice, and multiple snow storms we were not able to sample yet.  However the time indoors allowed us to set up the lab and make sure that everything was running properly.  Additionally we were able to run all of our winter weekly Chlorophyll samples on the fluorometer.  Now we’re just waiting on good weather to get out on the water.

Here are some more pictures from COPA and the crossing down:

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