January 26: The Rothera Pitstop

Post written by VIMS graduate student John “Jack” Conroy.

1611 local time

69 35.99 S 75 37.01 W

Laurence M. Gould tied up at Rothera (Photo: Debbie Steinberg)
Laurence M. Gould tied up at Rothera (Photo: Debbie Steinberg)

Early Saturday morning, we arrived at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island. This marked the halfway point in our thirty days of research west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Rothera pitstop has become a tradition on the Palmer Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research cruise. Most of us on the Laurence M. Gould were craned over to solid land via the ship’s “man basket,” a small platform surrounded by ropes. As we were offloaded, men and women living at the British base were lifted onto the Gould. Both groups had been looking forward to Saturday as a nice change of pace from life on ship or station. A group stayed behind on the ship to host the Brits as they spent the day sailing near the island, eating large American meals, getting some productive science done, and trading stories.

Snow cat on the glacier as we prepared to hike up the glacier (Photo: Joe Cope)
Snow cat on the glacier as we prepared to hike up the glacier (Photo: Joe Cope)

The rest of us were welcomed with tremendous hospitality on station. After light English breakfast fare, we split up into groups for the day’s activities. Debbie went on a flight along the Peninsula to survey whales and to scout ice conditions. They saw about 35 humpback and minke whales, even catching pictures of them as they fed on krill and pooped! Tricia and Kharis went skiing down one of the mountains surrounding Rothera, getting rides on snow mobiles for run after run. Joe and I joined a group in a snow cat (little truck with snow treads) for a bumpy ride up a glacier. We jumped out and tied up to one another as we marched to the end to the end of the glacier and then scrambled up a rocky peak for an incredible view of the area. All of us went on an afternoon stroll around Rothera Point surrounded by seals, penguins, and ice bergs. 

The afternoon’s main event was a soccer match held on the runway, pitting the heavily-favored Rothera against the Gould. This annual game had been on hold for a couple years, and we were eager to renew the friendly rivalry. Chief Scientist Oscar Schofield (Rutgers) put on an inspired performance in goal, holding Rothera to a single, measly goal. Kharis led the Gould attack, but a few close misses kept us off the scoreboard. Veterans suggest this was the strongest American performance since the legendary 1-0 victory in 2011. We ended the day with “band night” as musical groups from the British base put on quite a show!

– Jack

Everybody was still friendly after the soccer match.
Everybody was still friendly after the soccer match.