Well, the month has gone by and it’s already time for me to leave Palmer Station. The RV Lawrence M. Gould (the letters RV stand for Research Vessel) arrived to load up all our cargo and today about 15 people will leave the station to go back to Punta Arenas, Chile.
Do you remember the pictures of the Gould that Ms. Bayko shared with you at the very beginning of my trip? It’s a big orange boat that brings us from Chile, in South America, to Palmer Station Antarctica. It’s also the ship that takes us back to Chile. Here is a picture of it at Palmer Station in May 2011 when there wasn’t as much sunlight.
In fact lots of sailing ships and cruise ships visit Palmer in the summer from all over the world! They even get to come on land and visit us on station. Look at this little sailing boat, only 50 feet long and carrying only 12 people that was able to make it across the Drake Passage, the open ocean from the tip of South America to Antarctica. The Drake Passage is a dangerous part of the ocean and some of the stormiest and most adventurous sailing waters in the world!
We also had a scientific ship, the National Geographic Explorer come and visit us carrying around 300 people interested in environmental sciences. They wanted to learn more about Antarctica and its environment, animals, and station life.
The largest ship I have ever seen here is the Crystal Symphony in summer last year, January 2011. It had 1500 people on it!! It was a luxury liner and very different, much more stable in the ocean, than a little sailing boat!
Which ship would you prefer to visit Antarctica on? Have you ever been on a ship? What about the Cape May/Lewes ferry?
Well, this will be my last post for some time. I will say Bon Voyage to you all. I hope you have enjoyed following me on my adventures in Antarctica. Can’t wait to see what list of words you guys come up with for our activity. See you guys when I get back to Delaware!
A special post about the pier divers we have here on station. The divers group is made up of three guys, Steve, Rob, and Jack, who are working on fixing the pier at Palmer station so that our boat can come back to get us. They all have at least two decades of diving experience in cold water. Cold water diving is different than diving in Delaware and of course, very different than diving in the tropics! Because the seawater is below freezing, the divers use a “dry suit” which is water-tight and keeps them completely dry. Here is Steve helping Rob with his suit.
The suit has pipes running into it, and hot water can be pumped into the pipes to keep the divers warm while they work under water. If they were diving with a wet-suit, they would not be able to stay in the water more than 15 minutes before they froze! With this heated dry suit, they stay in the water for 4 hours! Here is Rob heating up the water to be pumped into the suit.
The drivers are fixing the pier because it it broken. They not only have to be master divers, but also welders so they can patch up the metal on the pier. Here is Steve putting on his diving suit and helmet, which is also very heavy and water tight. The helmet has headphones built into it so that the diver in the water can communicate with the other two team members who are on land. Below that, Steve is in the water welding two pieces of metal together with a flame.
The divers take turns doing 4 hour dives! Sometimes they get bumped by big chunks of ice and … even leopard seals! Leopard seals can be very aggressive so when they see one, the divers get out of the water FAST!
Another time, an elephant seal comes to visit the dive shack while Rob and the other divers are getting suited up. What a curious guy!
Have any of you ever been diving before? I took diving lessons in Delaware last year and got my SCUBA certification. Maybe I will even take special lessons to learn cold water diving in the future!
All these pictures were taken by diver, Jack Baldelli and I am grateful to him for sharing them with all of us.