Beakers & Crew

49°45'S, 168°40'E

The Captain's orders were that "every officer of the deck" shall alter the ship's course and perform all maneuvers that may be necessary to aid and facilitate the projects of the Scientific Gentlemen. I expect we will square away after a whale, or make sail after a runaway shark or chase a devilfish to leeward, and do a great many things that were never heard of before, nor would be now, were it not for the Scientifics: here's success to them, may they have a large book to publish when we return.
--from the journal of midshipman William Reynolds at the beginning of the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842

The pairing of scientist and sailor has a long and illustrious history. Joseph Banks and Captain Cook of HMS Endeavour, Charles Darwin and Capt. Fitzroy of HMS Beagle, James Dana and Capt. Wilkes of the USS Vincennes, and Stephen Maturin and Capt. Jack Aubrey of the Patrick O'Brian novels are but a few of these memorable and sometimes contentious pairings.Beakers Crew

At McMurdo Station and onboard the Palmer, nicknames help draw the distinction between scientist and sailor. Scientists are "beakers," sailors are "crew." Previous IVARS dispatches have focused on the former; this penultimate dispatch honors the latter. For without the able assistance of the ship's crew, we'd of course still be back in McMurdo.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) tenders the contract for polar science support every 10 years. In 2000, that contract was won by Raytheon Polar Services of Denver, a subsidiary of the multinational Raytheon Corporation. Raytheon provides science support on the ice and continent, as well as aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer and Laurence M. Gould, the two ships of the U.S. Antarctic Program. Raytheon also supports science aboard the US Coast Guard cutters Polar Star and Polar Sea.

The actual sailing of the Palmer and Gould is accomplished by personnel from Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO). ECO, with headquarters in Larose, Louisiana, is responsible for handling, crewing, and maintaining the vessels under a charter agreement with NSF managed by Raytheon. ECO built, owns, and operates both the Palmer and Gould.

Logistics play a crucial role in Antarctic research. The head of logistical support aboard the Palmer is Marine Projects Coordinator Herb Baker. Herb works with the chief scientist to assign shifts and tasks to all Raytheon personnel on board; and to label, offload, and ship all science cargo. Herb also decides, along with the Captain, whether sea state, ice conditions, or other factors warrant shutting down operations until conditions improve.

Assisting in science logistics are Marine Science Technicians Addie Coyac and Karen Pavich and Marine Technicians Annie Coward and Rick Lichtenhan. Addie and "KP" help operate, troubleshoot, and repair the Palmer's laboratory equipment (e.g., microscopes, fluorometers, liquid scintillation counters, etc. etc.), and are in charge of lab safety, which includes managing hazardous materials and radioactive wastes. They also help us complete the paperwork required to ship equipment and samples back to our home institutions. Annie and Rick are responsible for handling cargo, deploying science gear overboard, operating the Zodiacs, and maintaining and repairing mechanical equipment such as dredges, cores, and nets. They're the ones who stand on the edge of the fantail to pull in a mooring as waves toss and turn the ship.

Electronics Technician Brent Evers is responsible for the Palmer's electronics equipment. This includes the oceanographic and atmospheric sensors, closed-circuit TV system, and satellite telephone. Chris Linden's specialty is the Palmer's multibeam sonar system. He provides initial instruction on how to clean up the raw sonar data (the much-loved task of "ping editing"), and keeps the system working while we're at sea.

The Palmer's Computer Technicians are Dean Klein and Isaiah Norton. They maintain and repair the ship's computer network, run the E-mail system (which makes them much loved by those wanting to stay in touch with colleagues, family, and friends), and help configure, operate, and repair other shipboard systems such as the underway fluorometer. At the end of our cruise, Dean and Isaiah will compile all the data from the ship's many sensing instruments and burn them onto a CD-ROM for distribution to the beakers.

Last but obviously not least are the Palmer's Captain, officers, engineers, able seamen, and kitchen staff. Master and Commander Robert Verret is the ship's captain and ultimate authority. He has more than 10 years of Antarctic sailing under his belt, many in the stormy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, where he was previously Captain of the R/V Gould. Capt. Verret is assisted by Chief Mate Vladimir Repin (who brings the Russians' vast knowledge of ice breaking aboard), and mates John Souza, Morris Bouzigard, and Rachelle Pagtalunan.

Chief Engineer Dave Munroe keeps the ship's four Caterpillar Diesels running smoothly. He's backed up by engineers Robert Morris, Gerald Tompsett, and Carl Largan, and by Oilers Rolly Rogando, Rogelio Pagdanganan, and Elbert Bataller.

The Palmer's able seamen keep us shipshape. They maintain and repair the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems; fight the rust, salt, and ice; and keep the ship exceedingly clean both inside and out. They are Sam Villanueva, Lorenzo Sandoval, Lauro Garde, Louie Andrada, Fernando Naraga, Ric Tamayo, and Danillo Plaza.

Perhaps most beloved of all the crew are stewards Jody Keown, Alejandre Monje Miranda, and Luciano Albornoz. After all, the way to a mariner's heart runs through the stomach. Jody sold her "dairy" (convenience store) in Lyttleton, New Zealand a few years ago to become the Palmer's chef, and with the help of Alejandre and Luciano has kept both beakers and crew happily satiated all through our voyage. Discussions and tastings of various meringues, tarts, cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, scones, crepes, pastries, sweetbreads, muffins, ice creams, flans, puddings, brioches, and madeleines are a popular pastime. Of course Jody serves us nourishment from other food groups as well.

Speaking of which, it's now time for lunch. Then it's dinner, midnight rations or "midrats," and breakfast once more.