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Science Careers Blog

December 13, 2009

Ambushed by Icebergs

This morning we were ambushed by icebergs. We woke up and realized we were prisoners of large chunks of ice that completely blocked the entrance to our tiny harbor for zodiacs here at Palmer. The station sits on a small, rocky shore, with a glacier behind it. Our only means of transportation are these zodiacs, and there is no other way to get in and out of the station but through our small harbor.

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Now that our driveway is blocked and we are temporarily trapped, it is interesting to see what happens in here. Science continues, but to a slower tune, while a crab-eater seal sleeps on the very same iceberg that ambushed everybody. The "birders", who are used to going out every single day, no matter what, walk to and fro, settling finally into rare all-day desk work. The biologists who study microorganisms and phytoplankton in the water column come to terms with not sampling today.

But everybody enjoys a minivacation, taking a few minutes longer at the lunch table, reading, enjoying the fantastic luxury of a hot tub overlooking glaciers, and taking lots of pictures -- Palmer has more cameras per capita than any place I know, and several amazing photographers.

One of them is Zenobia "Zee" Evans, who is in charge of building maintenance and construction. She offers her black and white photos for a Sunday workshop called "art at the bar". The workshop is a cool way to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings in a new way: by learning how to colorize a photo, drawing or painting in watercolors.

Thanks to the icebergs, we also got to do more lab work than usual and, finally, sit in the lounge for a good movie and popcorn. The lounge at Palmer feels like a private social club, with comfortable leather recliners and a ton of movies and books.

The wind has started to blow from the east. That means the icebergs will be blown into the bay and out of the harbor, perhaps overnight. It also means we might get bad weather, or just tons of snow. Or maybe a radiant sun. This is Antarctica: Things change in the time it takes to take off your shades.


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