October 3rd, 2009 | | By Ken Mankoff
There are a few key mantras I’ve learned to repeat while I’m down here:
Be Flexible. It’s a Harsh Continent. Hurry Up and Wait.
We’re dealing with all three of those right now.
We have left Palmer Station but have sailed South rather than North or homeward. About 40 nautical miles SSW of Palmer Station is Hugo Island. Next to Hugo is a small rock called Santa Claus Rock (I think). On this rock sits a malfunctioning weather and GPS station and we are tasked with fixing it.
Fixing it involves sending a shore party out in a Zodiac. They will attempt a landing amid breaking waves on a snow-covered rocky beach. If successful, they will then attempt to fix the weather/GPS station, and motor back to the ship. Then we sail north to port in Punta Arenas, Chile, where we catch a plane home.
Unfortunately there are strong winds, thick fog, dense sea ice, and large swells under the ice. So we are sitting and waiting. If the weather clears, the ice thins, and the waves are calm enough to land the Zodiac then perhaps we’ll be able to repair the station. Otherwise we’ll wait, perhaps up to 3 days, at which point we must head home due to port call deadlines. Another cruise, in a few months, will make another attempt.
The weather component measures the… weather. And the GPS component is measuring continental rebound. During the last ice age there was a lot more ice here. This ice weighed a lot and pushed the crust of the earth down. The ice left relatively quickly, but the crustal rebound continues today. This process will continue in the future as more ice melts, and seas rise, due to both natural and human-induced climate change. A side-effect of this is that over long periods of time, certain places might experience relative sea-level drop rather than rise, although they are likely to get wet over the short term.