Posted by Dr. Rick Peterson (Coastal Carolina University):
The past couple days here at Palmer Station have been quite exciting. On Sunday night, we had a Super Bowl party. Most everyone from station got together in the lounge with lots of food and followed Super Bowl updates. We don't get TV down here, but were able to keep up with updates of the game. Though the game didn't turn out like most on station had hoped, it was still a fun evening of food, fellowship, and football!
Then on Monday, the R/V Laurence M. Gould arrived back at station. After originally dropping us off here at station on January 5th, the ship, scientists, and support staff have sailed around the area on a month-long cruise for the Palmer Station Long-Term Ecological Research project. After a month at sea, everyone on board was happy to set foot back on solid ground. We had a nice dinner with everyone, then an open-mic night in the lounge where folks performed and entertained each other.
On Tuesday morning, the Gould set sail back for Chile. Seven of our friends from station headed back with them. With only 42 people on station, you quickly develop a community atmosphere with the folks living and working around you, and it was sad to see them go. In such close quarters, we eat, sleep, work, and even bathe in close proximity with each other, so friendships quickly form. It was a somber morning bidding everyone farewell.
A tradition here at Palmer Station is for people to take a "Polar Plunge" when the Gould pulls away from the dock. As our only form of transportation away from station, when the ship pulls away, you know you are stuck here for a while. The tradition is for people to jump in the water and swim after the boat as a final attempt to get back on. The water temperature is very close to freezing, so the swim doesn't extend too far from shore!
After the departure of our seven friends, we gained another later that morning. While collecting samples offshore, we were visited by a Leopard Seal (see pictures and fun facts below). It is a rare treat to see one of these seals down here, and this one was particularly playful and curious about us and our zodiac. It was a bit unnerving being that close to one of the top predators down here!
As for us, we are firmly in the routine of our sampling season. We each have fallen into our own jobs and are operating quite well as a unit. In a couple weeks, the Gould returns to station with the rest of our team, and we're eagerly awaiting their arrival!
Antarctic Fun Fact: The Leopard Seal is second to only the killer whale among all of Antarctica's top predators. With bodies ranging from 8 to 12 feet long and weighing between 400 and 1400 lbs, these seals are quite muscular with very sharp teeth. They typically feed on penguins and krill, but will also eat other seals as well. Though rare, Leopard Seals have been known to attack humans.