Onto the Ship


It’s time to get to work! We meet at the ship at 8AM, and the bustle quickly begins. Our group divides up and starts moving things into the lab each team will be using. Becky’s team is using the large “dry lab.” Colin will be growing diatoms in a tiny room that’s basically a large fridge. Mark’s team is using the bio lab and the hydro lab, and my workspace—when I’m not helping out everyone else—is in the electronics lab.

On the aft deck, the cranes are whirring as they load the ship. We unpack huge pallets and boxes of scientific equipment for hours, everything from plastic bottles and latex gloves to fragile glass flasks and specialized machines to the labs where they belong.

We shipped everything we need for our experiments months ago. While the Palmer is designed especially for scientific research, the kinds of science carried out aboard are quite varied. Research teams must bring everything they need, even enormous machines like our megacorer, which will take sediment (mud) from the deep-sea floor.

We check that everything has arrived safe and sound and in the right quantities. It’s a frenetic, fast-paced morning, and we are all constantly moving, sorting, and organizing. Support crew such as the IT, electronics, and other technicians are setting up for the cruise too, and there are multiple tours of the ship for those who are visiting or living at McMurdo. People and activity everywhere! By lunchtime, we’re ravenous and ready to sit down.

After lunch, we check out of our McMurdo Station dorm rooms, take all our luggage down to the ship, and receive our room assignments. Our cabins are small but versatile with bunk beds, closets for our gear, a compact bathroom, a TV, and a small desk. But we don’t have time to settle in yet—there’s still lots of work to be done in the labs!

This evening, we take a short walk out to Scott of the Antarctic’s hut, which is in the same condition its ill-fated inhabitants left it in. It is humbling to stand inside and think of how those men endured and suffered in the pursuit of exploration and adventure and what strong, incredible people they must have been. They had none of the specialized EWC (extreme weather clothing) and comforts we take for granted down here.

That lump is a hundred-year-old seal carcass...

More seal bits. The hut is full of seal. Bits. Stinky. Drippy. Oozy. Old. Seal bits.

Standing on the point just beyond their hut, looking out over the expanse of the Ross Sea, I am filled with unspeakable joy and wonder. Words can’t adequately convey how it feels to be here, how spellbinding the view, how awe-inspiring the nature of this place. I am grateful to the explorers who came before me, to the scientists who have built this tiny town so we can live in comfort here. I feel like the luckiest person alive.


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