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Adventure Time: Palmer Station Edition

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

What do we do when we’re not conducting experiments with krill and analyzing massive amounts of data? We go outside and enjoy the natural beauty of Anvers Island (weather permitting, of course), where Palmer Station is located. Some things that I and the other 19 people here on station enjoy doing include boating to the nearby islands, skiing down our backyard glacier and snowshoeing around in hopes of witnessing a glacial calving event or some charismatic megafauna.

We’ve been pretty lucky this season (knock on wood) with the weather allowing us to get outside as often as we do. The sea ice has started to come into the bay and inlet surrounding station, but on days when the wind blows it out we are able to go out boating! There is a handful of islands that we can boat to within a few kilometers of Palmer Station. At the beginning of the season in April, May and June we would go out in our zodiacs and see humpback whales, Adélie penguins and leopard seals! The wildlife has slowly started to disappear, but there are still a few penguins and seals here and there. About a month ago, some of us hopped in a zodiac with our skis and showshoes and headed out to a small island by the name of Hermit Island. After waiting for the sea ice to clear out of the launch zone, we took off for Hermit. It was the first day in a while that the sun really shined and the water was clear as glass. On the way to Hermit we played a fun game where we tried to make shapes out of the icebergs that we passed, imagining things like dragons and dinosaurs. We docked our boat once we got to Hermit and were greeted by a couple of fur seals. The day was spent summiting the island (which took a total of about fifteen minutes), watching the petrels fly around their nests and sledding down the snowy hills. The work weeks are exhausting here at Palmer Station, but it’s days like these that rejuvenate your body and spirit.

Skiing is something that’s relatively new to me, but it’s a lot of fun trying to learn here at Palmer Station! We have a pretty fantastic recreation aisle in the warehouse that has everything from skis to snowshoes, and yes, there is even a split board! There are different size boots and bindings and everything you need for a fun day on the slopes. I can’t move very fast down the glacier yet, but I enjoy skiing down nonetheless! It’s really incredible that I can leave work and be at the glacier in fifteen minutes. Last week I did a little bit of night skiing and the view was incredible from the top of the glacier. The stars were shimmering and the only noise was the crunching of the snow made by my boots and the slight breeze blowing off the top of the glacier.

Something that I’ve seen almost everyone on station do here is snowshoe around the backyard and up the glacier. You can head to the backside of the glacier to a place we call Point 8, a popular place for penguins to hang out. Another option is to head down the side of the glacier to a place by the name of Bonapart Point, where you will typically run into a few seals along the way. Some people like to just stroll along the water’s edge to watch the sea ice form and to observe the amphipods that like to hang out near the rocks in the intertidal zone. Another popular place to showshoe is the recreation hut. This hut is located in the backyard of Palmer Station overlooking the glacier. You can actually camp in this hut, you just have to make sure you dress warm enough for the cold night.

There are so many adventures to be had here at Palmer Station and six months isn’t nearly enough time to discover all of the things that make this place special. We have a couple of months before the ship returns to retrieve us and I plan on spending every nice weather day until then outside. No matter how many times I am out on the water or on the glacier, I am always taken aback by the beauty and serenity of this place. I understand why so many of the winter crew give up their Northern Hemisphere summers to return to the land of ice every year.

Pictured above (top left to bottom right): Views of Point 8 (feat. Mike, Lisa and me), boating (feat. Kim and Ken) Hermit Island Summit (feat. me), Hermit Island skiing (feat. Kris), fur seals, glacier traverse, foggy day in Arthur Harbor, petrel nest on Bonapart and more boating (feat. Kim and Ken...again)!

Pictured below: Boating through the forming sea ice!

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