Date: October 1, 1996
From: Lori Ross, Palmer Station
(Lori Ross is one of Carol Vleck's research team, studying the reproductive success of Adelie penguins on Torgersen and other nearby islands. These Journal entries come from a series of letters home to family and friends.)
Well, I finally did some interesting stuff today. It was still blowing 30 knots when I woke up this morning, but it was clear. Asrun suggested that we go up the glacier and I said definitely. David also came with us. The trudge up the glacier was grueling to say the least. Up there the wind was more like 40 knots and it was blowing down on us. By the time I finally made it to the top, I was sweating due to all of the work and the layers that I thought I would need (I am in the Antarctic after all).
The view was incredible. I could see all of the islands around the station. I could also see the mountains on mainland Antarctica (Palmer is on Anvers Island off of the mainland). I took lots of pictures and hopefully they will turn out. The blowing wind could cause a white out affect so I may not get the beautiful pictures of ice and mountains that I am hoping for. Down the glacier, in what is called the "Backyard", there are numerous rocks to climb around on. A lot of them were snow covered due to our little blizzard last night (70 knot winds and lots of snow). There is also a inlet back there called Hero's Inlet. Toward the back of it there is still some pack ice and on this ice were 3 female elephant seals with pups and 1 female Weddell seal with a pup. I again hope my pictures turn out and these beautiful animals turn out as more than just brown spots on ice.
After lunch, the wind died down and we finally got to finish our boating lesson. We got out around 4 and headed toward Torgersen island. Another group was in the mooring station and the swell was extremely high so we went over to Humble Island to practice landing. I have to get used to driving this Zodiac. Of course you have to steer the opposite way you want to go and just working the throttle can be a pain. I think by the end of the lesson I was getting a little more used to it, but I don't think I am very good at landing. David and Asrun made it look so easy. I guess I will just insist on driving the boat until I get used to it.
I also had trouble pulling the engine out of the water. We have to do this when we are moored so it doesn't hit bottom. It is very awkward to stand up in this boat and lean over the side to try to pull this engine up. It would be very easy to flip yourself into the water. They only give you about 12 minutes in the water before hypothermia sets in and eventually death. Tomorrow I am going to try to see if I can pull in the smaller engine. We had a bigger boat out today because of the lesson (45 HP), but normally we will have a smaller boat (25 HP). We also get to practice starting it tomorrow; another tricky maneuver as these boats have pull starts.
I am so glad I finally got out today. I do believe that this is the most beautiful place on earth. When we were out in the water, the sun was hitting the jagged mountains on the mainland. The contrast between the white of the snow and black of the rock is breathtaking. As we were heading back, the sky was turning more gray and the wind was picking up.The light illuminating off of the mountains was so striking. I wish I could explain it better.
We saw a lot of wildlife during our outing. Of course there were kelp gulls, but there were also giant petrels and blue eyed shags. One shag almost landed in our boat! I really love the way the giant petrels glide over the water. They have a really large wing span and flight seems so effortless for them. It makes me jealous actually. If I get the chance, I think I want to try hang gliding just after watching these birds. We also saw a couple of penguins. There were 2 Gentoos next to an elephant seal on Humble, and 2 Adelies on the south side of Torgersen. Another group saw about 12 Chinstraps on the other side of Christy Cove and there are about 40 gentoos sitting at the bottom of the glacier across the harbor. I am really falling in love with this place.