Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In a hash of brash.

Left Palmer Station mid-afternoon for two quick stops in the ocean today and learned that, like in Kansas City, a quick onset of ice can make driving tricky.
The bay outside the station looked pretty much like this when we left.

So we cruised along for a while. The ocean swells were a little higher than usual, but not enough to do more than make the bow of our Zodiac bounce a little bit.
Saw a few penguins perched on a berg.

Then as we headed back, less than an hour after we left, we motored toward Palmer expecting an easy route. But when we got within about three-fourths of a mile from the station we saw that brash, or junk, ice had moved in.
Soon ice was lifting us higher off the water, clogging our propeller, killing our engine. We slowed from a few knots to to desperate lurches back and forth. We were fast falling to the mercy of the ice, and it was coaxing us close to a rocky shore. It wasn't looking dangerous, but if we fouled up the boat or the propeller, there'd be hell to pay with the boating boss back at Palmer.
At a minimum, itIt was looking like an hour or more to finish a trip that might usually take five minutes. Six minutes, tops.
It helps to have friends in the right places. Like the Southern Ocean.
A pair of world-class scientists happened to be a few hundred yards from us in the same jigsaw of fast-closing brash ice. Alex Kahl and Brian Gaas were driving a Zodiac affectionately known in these parts as "Bruiser" for being weighted down with gear and powered by an outboard packing 75 horsepower. Alex, in particular, has been very proud of that engine (size matters, and all that). Our little craft (code named for the purposes of this afternoon's outing "Newspapers are Dinosaurs" by the effete National Public Radio guy traveling with me) sported just 40 horsepower and, even with my lard butt in the bow, couldn't plow very well.
So we went hillbilly on these Antarctic seas. We tossed our bow line to Bruiser, and with me pulling on the line like a deer hunter trying to haul a buck from the brush, did our best to follow in the wake they bulled through the ice.

With feet too many times stomping too near idled propellers, some rather pointless work by your correspondent with an oar to shove aside some of the bigger chunks of ice (often the size an heft of an ATM), we made it back to bay that had transformed to this.
Just goes to show that the boating conditions around here can change almost as fast as an editor's opinion.


Anonymous said...

You should have made the NPR pansy get out and push.

Kentucky Bob said...

But did you find the Scotch??

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