Dan Weinstein - October, 1996
From: Dan Weinstein, Palmer Station
As we write in the Teacher's Guide the science done in the Antarctic critically depends upon the support teams who keep the Zodiacs in shape, staff the labs, cook the food, and keep the scientists in touch with their universities back home.
Dan Weinstein is a "GA", General Assistant, working for Antarctic Support Associates, ASA, which is NSF's contractor for all logisitics and support activities in the Antarctic. He's been at Palmer since summer 1996, and he's going to be working with the LFA 2 team during the upcoming live broadcasts.
This Journal is eloquent testimony to the presence in the Antarctic of a variety of people with varied experiences who make up the USAP. It also shows that along with very hard work and sometimes dangerous circumstances, the Antarctic invites its visitors to reflect deeply upon the paths which led them here, and express themselves, in diaries and in letters to others,in ways that are as much literature as "journal-ism".
Sun, 6 Oct 1996 14:34:38 -0500
Hey, I think I'm getting a little better at pool. I'm making a point of getting in and playing whenever I can.
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 23:58:30 -0500
Then Dave gave me a crash course on how to operate one of them Caterpillars. It was kind of fun driving that thing. People are really nice here, they know that I'm pretty clueless when it comes to manual labor, I mean I don't even know the names of tools, or how to describe this or that, I end up saying "that thing" a lot, yet they are pretty patient and don't make me feel like a fool...
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 01:20:48 -0500
Somehow, he ended up in the province of Mendoza in Argentina. There was a small community of Russian Jews there, some people from his home town. Grandma Lola was there, they married. He opened up a photography shop. It became a fairly successful business. A picture was worth more than all the Spanish words he knew. My father and his two brothers were born there. Mendoza is Argentina's wine region at the foot of the Andes Mountains. It is a beautiful place.
Grandpa Elias wanted more, however. He took his family to Buenos Aires. His business floundered. He spent long afternoons in "cafes portenos" playing chess. He once played a grand master and ended in a draw.
I have a chess set from those days. It's made up of odd pieces of various sets discarded by the cafes where grandpa used to play. The wood is carved beautifully in most cases, particularly the knights and the bishops ("Le rouge et le noir").
Was he still a communist? I do not know. There are conflicting accounts depicting him as a staunch atheist and a friend of the Roman Catholic clergy, a freemason, a thoroughly affable character. My grandfather loved to tell jokes. He died telling one to my grandmother. One last Russian joke, and he laughed and he laughed and he leaned back in his rocking chair laughing... and when he stopped laughing he stopped breathing.
He had requested not to be given any religious last rites. In fact he had threatened the local rabbi that if he performed any ceremonies for his corpse, the rabbi would end up underground before him. Grandpa was joking of course. Yet, when he died laughing, somebody decided to call the rabbi against my grandfather's wishes, thinking it wouldn't do any harm and it might bring some comfort to the widow. The rites were performed. The next day was the Sabbath, so there was no burial. The Sabbath did not prevent the rabbi's death however: he suffered a heart attack.
When Sunday came it was a beautiful day. Early in the morning, the funeral procession arrived at the Cemetery of La Tablada in the outskirts of Buenos Aires (less than ten blocks from where I grew up).
They began to walk towards the patch of real estate where grandpa would rest till kingdom come. It was a long walk, because he was to be buried at the very end of the cemetery, maybe because all the other lots were taken, or maybe because his family was that far away from the prosperity of those Mendoza days. It began to rain so suddenly, and so hard that the whole procession had to run back for cover. They waited for the rain to pass. They began their slow march again, this time at a slightly faster pace. And the rain came again, harder than before.
Disappointment fell upon the mourners even harder than the rain. The deep sadness of their loss was mired by the chaos of umbrellas and black dresses soaking wet, black stockings speckled with mud, and ruined shoes.
Admittedly, there was some laughter that could be heard as the procession became a herd for the third time, running for cover. I think it is absolutely understandable...
Then there was complete silence, when all the hands stopped splashing off the raincoats, and a woman's leg suspended flexed delicately to free a black heel of brown moist earth, and everyone understood at once. The rabbi's funeral procession arrived at its appointed time. It was allowed to proceed ahead of my grandfather's for reasons of civility and of good practical sense.
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 00:37:28 -0500
Mon, 14 Oct 1996 13:24:55 -0500
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 15:57:59 -0500
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 23:32:04 -0500
When my heart slowed down, I propped my head up, and looked at the sun, and the islands nearby, and the ocean covered with soft ice, and the mountains that begin the continent, and the huge icebergs far, far away.
Mt. Williams became golden with the setting sun. I was getting cold.
When I stood up I saw someone walking up the glacier. It was Pete, Deneb followed shortly after him. Words, laughter, things human. Pete took a picture of Deneb with her funky shades. I started down the glacier. First, my sled wouldn't go: not enough of a slope, but then I was going faster and faster. Joy and the rocks at the bottom were both approaching at great speed...
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 23:57:24 -0500
We just went for a boat ride. We left right after dinner to catch a glimpse of this big berg parked right in front of Palmer. It was a wonderful sunset cruise. When we got back, we were asked to head out again so our Zodiac would model with the berg and the sunset in the background. There were about 10 people shooting pictures from the balcony in the Biolab and from the pier. We also came back with a huge chunk of bar ice. We went to Loudwater Cove, where we turned off the engine and just hang out for a little while in silence, just the four of us and an elephant seal lounging on the shore. It was so much fun.
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 23:09:17 -0500
After break, I didn't have the heart to go down again, so I figured I'd take care of the part of the pipeline that runs outside to the day tank. I was working outside when Don Ferris got on the all call requiring OSAR team members to meet at the boathouse to answer an emergency call. We were sent looking for an overturned Zodiac. There is currently a big berg that looks like a little mountain or a big hill, depending on the perspective, parked right in front of Palmer, maybe 500 yds away, so we were sent to look around north of it while Team One went south.
After more radio comms, and looking around, and even a flare shooting, we met the rescuees and Team One on Shortcut Island. We were welcomed with Fig Newtons, and some laughter. I hadn't been to that area. Petrels were landing near us. A tongue of the glacier extended straight in front of us, its side cracked, showing the most beautiful blues, the layers of ice shading the passing of time, and snow covering it partly like cobwebs, partly like a huge wave.
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 11:16:29 -0500
Fri, 25 Oct 1996 19:31:54 -0500
The first thing I had noticed was the beautiful echo: very much like a church. I started singing into the tank. There is this one Gregorian chant that I remember from my altar boy days. It's called Tantum Ergo:
Tantum ergo sacramentum
So there I was singing to my heart's content into the echoing cavern, a big dark circle, the still surface of the fuel black and the reflection of the round hatch on top, my face peering down, all covered with hat and scarf and funny looking, and the round gray sky behind me. I tried, silly me, to look down on the reflection without being a part of the picture: a circle of light within a circle of darkness.
I was thinking I would always remember this. Tom came up and he attributed my happiness to the fumes I'd been inhaling with all that singing. We both laughed.
Mon, 28 Oct 1996 23:00:25 -0500
|Back to Field Journals Menu||Back to Dan Weinstein' Journals||Palmer Station|