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Staying safe on the water

Posted by: | January 9, 2010 | No Comment |

Our daily commute is a bit unusual. Instead of driving to work in a car, we drive to work in small boats called Zodiacs.

We see cool animals like leopard seals when we're out in the Zodiacs

We see cool animals like leopard seals when we're out in the Zodiacs

Zodiacs are a lot of fun, and we see neat things on our way to the islands. However, boating in Antarctica can also be dangerous. The weather can change quickly, boats can break down, and the ocean is so cold that if you go overboard, your hands will stop working in 10 minutes.

Here are some of the simple rules we follow to stay safe on the water.

Check the weather

Palmer Station has up-to-the minute weather information available. Before we leave, we check the speed and direction of the wind. If it’s too windy, we stay at the station.

 

These monitors give us information on the temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, and sunrise and sunset.

These monitors give us information on the temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, and sunrise and sunset.

 

Check the equipment

Palmer Station’s Boating Coordinator keeps a close watch on the Zodiacs while they are parked at the station. Before we leave the parking lot, however, we make sure our boat is in working order and that we have all the safety equipment we need.

The Palmer Station parking lot.  Our boat is #66

The Palmer Station parking lot. Our boat is #66

 

Watch for obstacles

We often see ice floating in the water. Big chunks of ice can bang up our motor or even put a hole in the boat. Someone always rides in the front to keep an eye out for dangerous ice.

In this video taken from our Zodiac, you can see Yuta and Nick acting as “ice pilots” through brash ice. The third voice you hear in the background is our weather radio.


Wear sunscreen and sunglasses

The atmosphere is relatively thin in Antarctica and every spring (August and September), an ozone hole appears over most of the continent. To protect our skin and our eyes from UV radiation, we need to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

It’s important to protect ourselves from the sun.  Otherwise, we may end up looking like molting elephant seals!  (Elephant seals have patchy skin when they are shedding their winter coat, not because they are sunburned.)

It’s important to protect ourselves from the sun. Otherwise, we may end up looking like molting elephant seals! (Elephant seals have patchy skin when they are shedding their winter coat, not because they are sunburned.)

 

And the number one rule…Keep in touch!

We use our radios to call the station every time we’re leaving, moving from island to island, or coming back. That way, someone always knows where we are—and can send help if we get into trouble.

You know, these seem like good rules to follow no matter where you are, or what you are driving!

under: Posts by Juanita Constible
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  1. GigaPan series: A day in the life of the Belgica hunters II – Leaving on a zodiac… | Studying Belgica at the Bottom of the World

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