R/V Polar Duke Farewell Tribute
in the Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography
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Memories of the Infamous 1990 Texas Outlaw-Viking Raid on Palmer Station
by John B. Anderson
I think that the most memorable experience I have from Polar Duke is the end of our 1990 cruise to the Ross Sea. This was the first time Polar Duke had ventured far from the Peninsula area and the cruise was a great scientific success. The seismic data acquired during that cruise was used to reconstruct the glacial history of the region and provided a strong basis for arguing that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet first grounded on the Ross Sea continental shelf in the early-middle Miocene. The return trip from Ross Sea to Palmer was a rough one. A large front followed us all the way back, making life onboard the Duke most unpleasant. But at long last, we reached the inland passage and began to pick things up off the deck that had been allowed to stay there while the ship constantly rolled. A few hours out of Palmer we contacted the station to let them know that we would be arriving in the early evening and that we were looking forward to a good meal on dry land. We were promptly informed by the station manager that the folks in Palmer were having a private dinner that evening, sort of a going away party or prom or something like that, and we were not welcome. Well screw them we all decided, we will have a Bar BQ. You see the Norwegians had grown quite fond of our Texas-style Bar B Q's and we were all committed to showing the folks in Palmer how to have a good time. The stations manager did agree to let us come up and raid their food stores; we were virtually out of food, so some of us went ashore and raided their supplies while other folks fired up the Barby, iced down some brews, and got things set up for the party. It was a wonderful afternoon and we decided to have the event on the back deck were all of the Palmerites would be able to observe the event. While raiding the galley our luck suddenly took a turn, we discovered a case of French Champagne hidden beneath a tarp. We took the Champagne out and hid it under the hot tub, the site of the planned finale of the evening's events. The BarBQ was a great success, enjoyed by all carnivores onboard. The Palmerites were observed on several occasions viewing out the windows with envy, but none of them swallowed their pride over the tasty BarBQ and joined us. As the night grew later we moved the event to the hot tub where the champagne and tub had attained their ideal temperatures. There were 24 of us in all, which I think maximized the limits of the tub, but not a soul complained as the champagne bottles were passed around the tub. Eventually the champagne was gone and we began sending Carol Raymond out on raids. I was never really sure where she went but she came back each time with a fresh supply of wine. It was about this time that the Norwegians fell behind in their capacity to drink as much as Texans, the Captain (best not mention names here) would submerge from time to time and had to be pulled from the abyss of the hot tub. It must have been about 1 o'clock in the morning when the station manager appeared for the first time to ask us to abandon the tub. "Be gone with you" we all shouted "or we'll keel haul ya." On one occasion the station manager informed us that the some of the Palmerites would be departing in the early morning and they needed sleep, at which point we raised the captain's head from the murky abyss and responded "we leave when he is ready." Eventually the hot tub party did end and all retired to the Duke for a few hours sleep before our morning departure. The trip from Palmer up to King George Island was one of the most spectacular days I can remember in Antarctica. The seas were glassy calm, there were no clouds and wild life was all around us as we steamed up the inland passage listening to one of my Leon Redbone tapes and trying to piece together the events of the previous evening. The Palmerites remained somewhat unsociable. It was a rare event for us to get to fly out of King George Island rather than ride back to PA on the Duke, but no one complained. Seems as though the reason for our good fortune was the Peter Wilkness was flying down to King George with some VIP's to take a tour of the Duke and Palmer Station. When Peter arrived at Palmer the first thing he wanted to do was toast the VIP's with some of that French champagne. Needless to say the station manager took great pleasure in telling him that it was John Anderson and his band of Texas desperadoes and Viking pals who drank the champagne and otherwise terrorized the station the night before. The bottles were apparently still lying scattered around the hot tub, along with various articles of clothing, but I can proudly say that none of our people were left there that night, even those for whom it seemed nothing could be done but deliver their last rights. Peter Wilkness never forgave me for that act. Thank God he left OPP, otherwise I might never have been funded again. I think that the station manager quit or was fired. Someone had to be held accountable for the events of the evening. As for me and my Viking buddies, we came back to Palmer the next year to find the hot tub empty and a huge padlock on the liquor stores and galley. So we took leave of the Palmerites immediately, sailed up to Maxwell Bay to the Copacabana where we invited Wayne and Susan T. and their assistants out to the ship for the first Texas BarBQ-Line Dance ever held in Antarctica, but that is another story.