Commuting to Work on an Icebreaker

There are two sets of scientists on this voyage to Antarctica. One set will spend six weeks on the ship studying the waters, the plankton, and the whales off the Antarctic Peninsula. They do this voyage every year, collecting a long-term data set that shows us how the region is changing.

We’re in the other set—our work takes place at Palmer Station, and we’re just hitching a ride on the Gould. We’re like commuters riding the subway to a job, except our subway is a 230-foot icebreaker and our commute is 600 miles long. We act like subway commuters: we pack ourselves into whatever spare space is available; we do prep work and planning so we’re ready to begin as soon as we reach Palmer Station; and we spend our spare time admiring the scenery outside.

Read on about our commute from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula in this slideshow:

A Dolphin That Looks Like a PandaKeeping Us on the Strait and NarrowAlmost Like Part of the LuggagePutting Valuable Time to UseDoing Science From a Moving ShipA Sky Full of AlbatrossesHalfway Across the “Fearsome” Drake PassageMidnight, New Year’s Eve

Note #1: See an example of a radar map of the surface currents at Palmer Station in the very first post on this blog.

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  1. Brian Francisco January 7, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    what kind of space do you have for storage and comfort in the icebreaker?

    • Hugh Powell January 7, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Brian – What you saw in photo #3 in this post is about it for storage. That metal container was home to five of us, and you can see our bags stacked on the outside of the container in the left of the image—there wasn’t much storage space on the inside. On the other hand, the ship does have a galley, where we ate our meals, and a lounge with a TV, sofas, and work tables. Plus there’s the deck of the ship for sightseeing and watching albatrosses and icebergs. All in all, it’s pretty comfortable. Thanks – Hugh

  2. Danielle January 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    The picture of the dolphin is really beautiful – I’ve never seen a dolphin with those colors!

  3. Na'Asia January 26, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    The picture of the Albatross was so magnificent. The birds wings are so long. I never saw a bird with wings so long before.
    From Rivera Middle School