Monday, April 26, 2010

Palmer Station...

Hello Hello.

Palmer Station. The it is the second base built here. The first station, dubbed Old Palmer is no longer around, but the site rests on another part of the island about a mile or so away. And yes, an island. We are located on Anvers Island. So if anyone is keeping track or cares to get technical, McMurdo is on Ross Island 70 miles from the Antarctic continent, South Pole sits atop a two mile thick glacial ice field, and Palmer Station is on Anvers Island some 20 or 30 miles from the continent. So, realistically speaking after years of working in Antarctica, I have yet to touch the continent itself. Odd.

These first pics you see are of the BIO building. This could be called one of the two hubs of activity on base. There are only about four buildings here and this is one of the big ones.

Inside the BIO building we have the dining area which comes equipt with its own little fireplace. This was taken on the morning of a day off so its nice and peacful. Even with only 32 people on station at the moment it can get pretty hectic in here.
The orange coats you see are Float Coats. They, along with ECW gear, are required for any and all boating trips that are taken on the water. They double as floatation devices and can be seen if a recuse is needed in the dark.

The other pic is of one of the science labs on the first floor. We have everything from fishermen and Antarctic divers to someone who is trying to grown 4.5 million liver cells. Pretty cool stuff.

The next part is obviously my favorite. Although I am biased. These are pics of the galley. It is suprisingly bigger than I thought, however still can be cramped when there are three of us working like there has been this entire last week. It's basically broken into three parts. The service area where people get their food, the back room where all the pots and pans, stoves, and breadracks are, and the baking area. I secretly (not anymore I guess) hate those ovens. They are not convection ovens so they don't cook very evenly and I have a hard time getting bread to brown in them.
The light also does not shut off so you think you might be putting something in a hot oven when in fact, it has been off for hours and don't know it till dinner time but by then it's too late. Damn.

That little wooden table by the slicer is my favorite. Diane plays NPR in the morning and its a nice way to begin the day. Prepping some veggies, looking over menus and recipies. It's a very homey kitchen. Diane likes to make bagels and pastries for our Sunday mornings off. You can see Allen enjoying a bagel.

In the same building, just down the hall I have an office. I actually have an office! I've always hated the idea of having an office, but here I am. It's pretty neat considering I have my own computer and phone and view looking out at the glacier.

I also live in this BIO building for now. I requested to move once winter actually starts because I want a "commute" to work and I don't want my home to be in the same building as my work. One of the reasons I like cooking so much is that I don't take it home with me. If I'm in the building at night I'm tempted to do things after hours. Pull meat that I forgot, look up menu items, etc. It's better to be away.

These pics are of my room. As you can see it's incredibly small. Especially for two people. But I live with my good friend and April the Leukemic Cat partner in crime Dave Barud. But, and I'm sure he will agree, it will be nice to have our own space once winter kicks in. But this next pic is a view from my room. We look directly out into Arthur Harbor. Awesome views. If we are lucky we can hear the glacier crack and cave in our room.

I'll move up to this building. GWR. I have no idea what it means, but it is the other hub of activity on station. The red walkways you see are how we get around behind the buildings.
Here you can see our bar. It is a great place to hang out. Bring your own, of course. Jack, one of our FEMC workers is making his Sunday morning cup of coffee. The bar is littered with trinkets of Palmer history. Boating flags, photos of whales and other wildlife. A nice spot to unwind after a day of work.

There are also berthing units in this building and an awesome TV area for us to watch the many movies that line the walls. It's also a good place to relax. Here Phillip is taking some time to mend his jacket. He told me not to emmasculate him by taking a picture of his sewing. But I did. You are hereby emmasculated, Phillip.

This is our little gym. There's not much, but you don't need much. If anybody wonders how I stay so ruggedly handsome, this is it. HA! And ruggedly humble. :-)

Well, there you have it. I could do more but I'm tired of being on the computer and it's a nice day so I'm going to hike on the glacier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Drake Passage...

For years prior to boarding the R/V LAURANCE M. GOULD, I have heard tales. Tales of the sea. The Drake Passage is infamous for high seas. Seen as how it is where the Atlantic and Pacific ocean meet, there are numerous currents jostling around for superiority. The apprehension of boarding the boat and what was to come was huge and very unnerving.

We left around midnight on a Friday. Which was unfortunate because we missed the spectacular Straits of Magellan. They are supposed to be wonderful. Perhaps I will see them on the way back. Many of us gathered on the top deck as they pulled the gangway away.

We got one last amazing view of Punta Arenas lit up at night. It was nice to see the quiet city that way. We won't see it again for another six months.

When we woke in the morning, we were treated to a vast ocean of nothing. We are looking South in these photos and there is nothing between us and Antarctica but empty, cold ocean. And I know what your thinking. "Keith, it doesn't look that bad out. You have boating experience. What are you so afraid? Why does it seem your doom is at hand?"

I don't know if this is legible or not, or if the ramifications can be understood. If you read closly, the posting says, "The outlook is not a good one. 20-25 foot seas!!"

Holy shit!

That's the size of a two story building, yall.

These photos do no justice, but for the better part of five days, we were rocking back and forth in the Gould. Laying in the bunk beds or watching a movie in the lounge was about the only respite one had for this turmoil. And even then it wasn't enough. I nearly fell out of my BOTTOM bunk several times.

What seemed like a lifetime later, we finally get to see our first sighting of the Palmer Peninsula and what will be our home for the next six months.

Stay tuned shortly for pics from my first Rec Boating trip. They are wicked awesome...


Monday, April 19, 2010

Punta Arenas, Chile...

Hello faithful readers!

It has been a while since a post. For good reason. The last couple weeks have been spent traversing from Denver CO to Palmer Station Antarctica! And it is good to be here. I can finally start nesting! I think in a strange way I'm kind of a homebody. My homes just happen to be in ridiculous places.

I'll take you through a step by step process of getting to Palmer. It will take several blog entries so stay tuned over the next couple days!

This is a pic of what I can only assume are the Andes. We flew from Santiago Chile to Punta Arenas and sights like these were below us the entire time. And yes, there were visible signs of the earthquake even at the airport. Lots of construction and newly refurbished walls. It looks like they are getting back on their feet. Hooray Chile!

These shots are from my hotel room. PA is a great city and I'll be excited to spend more time there. Beautiful sunsets as well.

When United States Antarctic Program (forevermore USAP) particpants travel through Chile, they are supported by AGUNSA. The pics are of the AGUNSA building on the pier where we are issued our ECW gear. Very small operation compared to the CDC in Christchurch. But of course, they are supporting less people. Sebastian was one of our contacts. He was super helpful with everything from where to buy groceries, giving us larger pairs of pants, and even a Spanish lesson here and there. It is now a goal of mine to learn Spanish while I am down here. Or at least study it so as to not be a complete moron.

Here's the boat! The big red one. The R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD. She was to be our home for the next several days as we crossed the Drake Passage. (Anybody out there know why boats are "shes?") But more on the boat later.

In the town square of Punta Arenas, there sits a huge statue of Magellan. Obviously an homage to Ferdinand Magellan, the explorer famous for sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as well as the first to cross the Pacific Ocean. We will navigate through the Straits of Magellan our first night on the boat. Unfortunately in the dark.

Anywho, it is tradition to view the statue and kiss the toe of said statue for good luck on your voyage. I understand the tradition but will be damned if I kiss any toe. I suppose its kinda like the Blarney Stone. Locals piss all over it and then laugh at the jackass tourists that kiss their potty place. Morons. So I just rubbed the toe instead. Then washed my hands.

That's all for now! Stay tuned tomorrow for "Crossing the Drake Passage..."


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Denver Shenanagan's....

So the week of fun and irresponsibility has come and gone. As of tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday I am back at work. I'll take a MAPCON class on Monday afternoon. MAPCON is the name of the computer program we use for ordering and keeping track of parts and things in Antarctica. It is also how we keep track of the food on station. Tuesday and Wednesday we go through the standard Human Resources orientation session. Wednesday afternoon we are whisked away to the airport. We'll go from Denver to Dallas to Santiago Chile to Punta Arenas where we will boat the boat. If everything goes as planned, we'll get on the boat on April 10th for a four day journey across the Drake Passage to the Palmer Peninsula.

This will be the last post before getting to Palmer. At that point I'm sure I'll have some great pics and stories from the boat ride. There are many tales from people past who have done this trip. Some say the water is like glass. Others say there are waves ranging from 20-50 feet. Characteristically, it is the worst water in the world. It is the meeting point of two great oceans, the Pacific and Atlantic. The passage is about 800 km and will take the better part of 4 days to traverse.

But for now I bid the Northern Hemisphere adieu. I'm sure it will be the same when I get back. My special thanks to the friends I have seen and have housed me over the past week. Kevin, Spud, Dave, Marc, Megan. I wish I had more time. For now I leave you with the best hangover omelet ever, messing around with Spud's cat Stetson, and our Wii characters. Funny, we haven't cured anything since Polio but we can create digital likenesses of ourselves.

Also, new best band ever award goes to Baroness. A perfect mix of Mastadon and The Sword. Two albums, The Blue Record and The Red Record. It is super awesome. Buy them now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Beginning...

So my glorious return to the ICE happens much sooner than I expected. After 13 months at Amundsen Scott South Pole station, one would think Keith would like to experience real life for a while. Alas, you are mistaken. As of 2009, I have spent a full 2 years, 24 months living in Antarctica. These 24 months have both been spent between summers and winters at the South Pole and McMurdo Stations. But now things change a bit.

As of April 14ish, I will be the Winter Food Supervisor at Palmer Research Station located on the Palmer Peninsula. Geographically speaking, it is on the opposite side of the continent from McMurdo. Rather than taking a C-17 from Christchurch New Zealand, we will be taking a four day boat trip from Punta Arenas through the Drake Passage.

I have never been to this station and, from what I hear it is certainly a treat. This particular winter contract starts in April, ends in October, and for the majority of the time I will be the only cook cooking for 18 people. I have actually never cooked for this few people. To quote an old supervisor of mine, "I may have difficulty making less than five gallons of anything." I will be responsible for a hot lunch, hot dinner, and two breaks throughout each day.

I decided to do this blog thing again for a couple reasons. The first one I attempted at the South Pole was cut short due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control. My big mouth coupled with petty people deciding to draw attention to things they shouldn't care about kept me from doing a good job. Hopefully this one is different. Also, because of the ridiculous amount of questions I get regarding this place and this job, I feel it is a great tool for teaching. Because this is not the South Pole, there will be a variety of temperatures and wildlife. So yes, I will answer temp and wildlife questions.

Also, I have never really taken pictures of the food I make. So I'm hoping that this is as much a Keith-Food-Blog as it is a Palmer blog. Over the years, I have worked with some awesome people and learned some awesome things. So I'm going to take this public forum opportunity to tell everyone how awesome I am. Because I am awesome. That's what these self-indulgent sites are all about right? Showcasing how awesome you are to the uncaring world?

I'm not in Antarctica yet. I'm in Denver taking a break in between Fire/OSAR Training and Orientation. I've included some pictures from our Fire Training two weeks ago. Being isolated for the winter at an Antarctic station means everyone participates in emergency response teams. We must have certain skills at our disposal in case bad things happen. 10 of us went through a five day Fire Training with the Arvada Fire Station staff in Arvada CO. Pretty sweet. If you can get over the claustrophobia...