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Dispatches from an Antarctic Co-op: Winter has gone

About Me

My name is Jake Grondin. I’m a rising junior in the College of Science, majoring in Biology, with minors in Physics and Math. I am one of two co-ops currently residing at Palmer Station, Antarctica working in Professor Bill Detrich’s lab. In this blog I am sharing my experiences on this incredible continent, and I hope you will continue to read along.

This co-op is one of the reasons I came to Northeastern, and I’ll start by saying it is most definitely not for everyone. As a research assistant, I work in the labs and stay on station through the Antarctic winter. Even though I’ve only been here for a short time, Palmer Station has become a very special place to me, and I am thrilled to be able to share this continent with the rest of the University and beyond.

If you haven’t already, read Jake’s previous posts here:

Climate Change

Our backyard

A day in the life

An intro to Maggie

Boating

Science!

Mid-winter greetings

When we don’t work

Station Living

The Journey South

It’s summer time at Palmer, which means my time on this beautiful continent is nearing its end. This past Saturday marked the departure of the winter crew meaning the 18 other faces I saw all winter, have now left. Myself and Maggie are the lone stragglers from the winter crew that remain, and while we are incredibly busy packing up the lab and shipping samples home, I wanted to use this time to thank some of the incredible people I had the pleasure of working alongside.

The Laurence M. Gould dropped myself, Maggie, and a little under half of the winter crew off in May, and from that point on I was with the only other people I would see until October. Some of them left in June, leaving us with a crew of 20. Science, science support, engineers, carpenters, mechanics, administration, and many more each had their departments represented by a single person. All jobs were essential, and all worked together to keep the station in operation and support the science I was lucky enough to help with.

One of the most common questions I get asked is “Is Antarctica isolating?” And my answer has always been no. Although I was with 20 people, they quickly became family. If anything, being on the ice has truly taught me how to connect with people, make an effort to branch out, try new things, and engage in conversations and engage with people I might not have normally. Everyone has a different backstory, and you can learn so much from just simple conversation and engagement with those around you. While I wasn’t able to see any new faces, I was able to connect and be welcomed into the Palmer family seamlessly.

It is actually rather difficult to even be alone on this station. Almost everything we do is done with others. From meals, movies, and cleaning to work, lounging, skiing, and boating, there is rarely anything you have to (or even can) do alone.

We started a band (Harsh Continent will always be in my heart), we jumped into the ocean (three times….), we hiked and skiied, we talked, we boated, we lounged. We cooked for each other (even giving our chef some much needed time off), engaged in riveting discussion and debate, themed nearly every day of the week’s movie nights, had a sleepover, and best of all, were able to truly get to know each other. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (I just had to).

Harsh Continent, the band.  From left to right me (keyboard and ukulele), Rick (guitar), Donte (drums), Kris (bass and saxophone), and Maggie (violin and vocals). Photo by Ken Keenan.

So to the winter crew, thank you. Thank you for knocking on my door when I wanted to take a lazy day. Thank you for dragging me up the glacier right after a workout because it looked pretty out today. Thank you for inviting me on a sunset ski once or twice even though I had never cross country skiied before. Thank you for waking me up at 7am to see the nacreous clouds one morning to make sure nobody missed it. Thank you for getting me to wake up early and boat to watch the sun peek over the glacier for the first time in months. Thank you for pressuring me into jumping into the ocean again and again for tradition. Thank you for welcoming this child (the youngest on station) into each and every one of your lives and making Palmer Station truly my home for these last six months.

At the end of every season the winter crew is immortalized on the wall of winter-overs with a handmade frame and picture. This year, for Palmer’s 50th, our carpenter Rick and engineer Josh helped make probably without question the most intricate frame yet. This year’s frame includes a handcrafted, carved and painted model of Palmer Station with a beautiful copy of the direction signs that adorn the back deck of the station.

Even though I still have about 10 more days on station, I cannot thank each and every one of these winter-overs for giving me the greatest experience of my life.

I will post one more blog while I am on my way home, and then I will sign off for good so stay tuned for one final hurrah!

 

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