Journal of Ann Devereaux

Date: Wed, Jan 8 1997
From: Ann Devereaux, Palmer Station

(Ann is on the NASA ACTS Satellite team)

Adelie penguins on Torgersen Island with Palmer Station and Polar Duke in background.

Look, Bob, I'm a Cowboy (Far side Cartoon) So, look everybody! I'm an oceanographer! I am writing you from the frozen but blessedly stable ground which is Palmer Station, Antarctica. Actually, it is not so bad, about 30 or so. That's Fahrenheit, you see, not to be mistaken for a typical Miami day back with in the US. This is our first night here, finally off the Research Vessel Polar Duke. We had an apparently mild crossing of the Drake Passage, where we sailed from Punta Arenas, Chile, northeast through the Straits of Magellan up through Argentina, and then down around Cape Horn to first Hugo Island (to repair a weather station), and then to Anvers Island where Palmer Station lies. I can't say much about the trip, as I spent 3/4 of it either in bed sleeping or "manning my post" outside on the fantail of the ship. Anywhere else on board I felt deathly ill. Most people were at least as bad, as each meal (I never made a breakfast), no matter what the time, showed the same number of people who'd obviously just arisen from their deathbeds to make an appearance. With the meals on the Duke prepared daily by the mainly Norwegian crew, the array of disconcertingly prepared meats would not have sat well with my American stomach even if I had been on dry such, I and a few others lived on a diet of crackers and soda.

Bow of Polar Duke while crossing the Drake Passage.

To pay for our crackers and soda, the entire passenger contingent volunteered to help out with the several oceanographic surveys which were taking place to map out in various ways our route across the Drake Passage. Two people at a time would stand a four hour watch, which consisted primarily of one person periodically launching a small disposable probe overboard and the other person recording by computer the changing temperatures of the water as the probe sank quickly to the bottom of the sea. On some watches, this was not so quick, as the water depth across the passage could vary from a few hundred meters to over a thousand--water a kilometer deep. Something to think about, for the unfortunate one of watch persons who was delegated to launching the probe from a shifting, water-slick deck at 3 in the morning! It was actually a neat experience however, as it allowed all of the us a chance to contribute to the overall mission of the Duke, which this trip is to perform part of a Long-Term Ecological survey of the Antarctic Peninsula region. And for me personally, my by now substantial experience with these particular tests allows me to add "Oceanographer Tech, 2nd Class" to my otherwise blandly electrical engineering resume. Had I known when I took that first satellite communications class...

Having finally acquired my sea legs, I could enjoy the ride for the last two days. The Polar Duke seems to me sort of a cross between a very clean fishing boat and a very small cruise ship. The accommodations were small but tidy, allowing two persons per room each their own bunks and several cunningly designed closets and drawers. In addition, there was a small table and bench seat, and a small sink and mirror to share. In addition to several labs and a large cargo hold, the boat also boasted a kitchen, dining room, day room for reading, and TV room for watching videos and communing (or commiserating) with your fellow passengers. All done to miniature scale, but quite comfortable. The last days on the cruise until we reached Palmer were just glorious, nothing but icy blue water and bright sun to every horizon. There was also a constantly changing show of seabirds at the back of the ship, hoping for handouts, no doubt.

Well, this entry ends tonight (!while still dusk outside at after 2 am) with my first night at Palmer. I'll probably wake up a few times before then, though, wondering why the engines have stopped and why we are not underway. Did I ever mention I couldn't bear boats or the cold? My attitudes are adjusting. But I'm not giving up my place in Pasadena quite yet.

Tomorrow we break into the satellite gear we've carried so far, and the real work begins.

					Ann Devereaux

| From The Field | Video Information | Researcher Q & A |
| Activities | Student Work | Discussion |
| Teacher's Guide | Search LFA2 | Related Materials |
| Teacher Home | Student Home | Parents and General Public Home |