Safety First in the Outer Islands

Ever since January 15, Dr. Josh Kohut has spent each evening looking hopefully at the weather forecast. He needs one day of calm winds to do some radar maintenance at the Wauwerman Islands. Though they’re only 10 miles away—closer than a drive to my favorite dinner spot back home—they lie across a stretch of water that’s open to ocean swells and high winds.

On Thursday morning, a calm, gray sea lapped at the boat dock. A steady drizzle was the only sour note, but that’s what foul weather gear is for. With a storm system likely to move into the region the next day, Dr. Kohut, marine technician Rosemary McGuire, penguin team leader Shawn Farry, and station manager Rebecca Shoop decided we should take advantage of the good seas.

Dr. Kohut wanted to finish three tasks on this trip: download data files and replace a hard drive; shore up the building foundation after the ice melt of summer; and make a calibration run to check the radar antenna. But we also needed to be ready to turn around if conditions deteriorated. Click through the slideshow to see whether we got everything done:

It Pays to Be PreparedWeather Check at Station EchoTo the Marshmallow IslandsCool Breeze, Hot Boat Thar She Spins!A Warm, Dry PlaceThe Importance of a Strong FoundationCasting Off
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  1. Pat Hester-Fearon January 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    I feel like I’m at 64 degrees south, and I am glad that everyone made it back safe from this mission thank you for always thinking safety first. Sorry you did not get to calibrate the antenna. Thank you Chris for letting Hugh use ‘this streaky photo’, it gives me a great sense of your day right down to holding the zodiac during the ride back to the station. You guys and gals are wonderful I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experiences with my 8th grade science students at Lincoln Middle School, Kearny NJ- Pat

  2. Arlene Lennox January 24, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    Talk about a pewter sky!

  3. Matthew January 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    Besides taking 2 zodiacs, what other safety precautions do you have in case of other emergencies?

    • Hugh Powell January 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Matthew – we discussed a few of our other safety precautions in this blog post: we take extra communications (radios and satellite phones), we bring survival gear, tents, extra food and water, extra gas, and extra people in case we need more help. Thanks for asking -Hugh

  4. Henri January 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    What would you guys do if there was a storm occurring for a long time.

    • Hugh Powell February 2, 2015 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Henri – We’d probably stay inside the warm, dry buildings at Palmer Station, drink hot drinks, and work on data or other projects indoors. When the storm passed, we’d be ready to go out again. Thanks for asking – Hugh

  5. Joseph Paglia January 28, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    I feel bad for Dr. Josh Kohut. He has been trying to complete 3 tasks for a week but he couldn’t do it because of the ocean and winds.

  6. Naomi Weintraub January 29, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    These pictures are amazing. I feel like I am there with you, your photos show depth and emotion that make us feel that we are there with you from the brackish water in photo 4 to the braving the winds in photo 8. Thank you for this wonderful experience.

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  1. By A Radar Station With an Oceanfront View on January 26, 2015 at 8:10 am

    […] days ago we had zipped over to the Wauwerman Islands to do much the same thing, fighting a steady drizzle the whole way. The Joubin Islands are about […]