Everyone is getting excited about the end of the season. It seems to be flying by. The channel finally blew out. Now there is open water in front of town for the first time since 2001. A large iceberg has been blocking the regular breakup and flow of the ice shelf. Hut Point is an exciting place these days. The penguins are still hanging around. Going out to watch them is like going to the circus. Since the ice cleared out and the water opened up it has cleared the way for whales to come in and feed. Yesterday we could clearly see the spouts of Orcas and with binoculars you could see their tall fins as they came up for air. Now we have seen all the wildlife the area has to offer. Hopefully in the next couple weeks they come close enough that I can get a couple of good pictures.
This week there has been a flurry of marine activity. There are currently two icebreakers cruising the waters around Ross Island; Polar Star and Polar Sea. They are breaking a channel to the Marble Point helicopter refueling station. The Nathaniel B. Palmer came into port yesterday. It was once used as a Coast Guard breaker but was decommissioned and is now used as a research vessel for the USAP. It is taking on fuel, supplies and new passengers. There are a couple of old Russian vessels that are now used as Antarctic Cruise ships that arrive in the Ross Island vicinity every year. Last week some of these passengers were ferried into town and spent the day touring our facilities. Word is that next week they will actually be docking at the pier.
Far off on the horizon you we can see the tanker Gianella waiting to come into port after the Palmer leaves. They were planning to stay out in the sound and act as a floating gas station for the breakers until the re-supply vessel American Tern arrives at the beginning of February. Today, in the weekly ?Antarctic Sun?, they reported that the arrival of the tanker has been anticipated due to favorable weather conditions. So, it looks like vessel operations will be over much sooner than anticipated. Many people have been told they will be leaving early if vessel schedules remain as they are.
We are still scheduled to leave on the 17th though, which means we have less than a month left. My schedule depends upon the Air National Guard and the LC-130s and not the ships. Sally (our supervisor) is insistent on Luci and I leaving on the same flight. So as long as the Hercs are here, I am here; as long as I am here, Luci is here. We have begun to make plans for our vacation. Before we came down we were planning on a grand tour of SE Asia. But, I think we have settled on spending a couple of months in NZ. We plan to buy a van and see the entire county. Apparently there are several dealerships in Christchurch that will do a buy-back deal. The only thing is that there are a lot of people that do the same thing and it might be difficult to get our hands on a good vehicle. If I get a vehicle in NZ it means that I will have at least one on three continents (yes, Jesse the Subaru is still mine until I receive full payment); a step closer to having land in all three. Luci and I are very excited to see more of the country of our dreams. An island nation with mountains, beaches, and forests all in relative proximity; what could be better.
I am not sure what I am going to do with the Antarctica Blog when we are no longer here. I don?t know whether to put it on ice until next season or keep it up. Any suggestions?