Oct 23: The Polar Plunge

Post by W&M undergraduate Domi Paxton.

Residents of the Palmer Research Station warm up in the hot tub following their annual Polar Plunge.

We’ve had an exciting week here at Palmer Station! First and foremost, the ‘polar plunge’ was completed as the Laurence M. Gould pulled away. All participants stripped down into bathing suits and jumped from the boating pier into the freezing Southern Ocean. Your whole body instantly goes numb so the water doesn’t feel that cold—but running through the snow to the hot tub was a little chilly.

After waiting for the sea ice to move out and the winds to calm down, we were finally able to have our Boating II course! It was my first time driving a Zodiac so I was really excited. We practiced driving around, landing at islands, and working the GPS. In addition our boating coordinator put on an immersion suit and flung himself into the water several times so that we could practice “man overboard” drills and retrieve him.

The Zodiac Ms. Chippy.

On Saturday Kim and I went out on our Zodiac (Miss Chippy) to calibrate the echo sounder. After making it through some brash ice (accumulation of floating ice chunks) we set to work trying to calibrate, but without much success due to currents and wind. We ended up moving back into a part of the brash ice that was slushy—this allowed us to stay still enough to retrieve some data. So although sea ice is normally a nuisance with boating, it proved to be helpful!

The Leopard Seal towfish.

To help us suspend our echo sounder off the side of the Zodiac, it attaches to the bottom of a wood structure shaped like a whale, complete with a dorsal fin. This year, the whale needed a new paint job. Kim and I started off by sanding away the old paint and then I spent a few days adding new coats. We decided to decorate it as a leopard seal, complete with spots and teeth, however the dorsal fin proved to be a little bit of a problem – so I painted it orange and we’re claiming it’s a leopard seal in disguise.

Author: David Malmquist

David Malmquist is the Director of Communications at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.