R/V Polar Duke Farewell Tribute
in the Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography


To the Rescue of the Bahia Paraiso
by Mahlon (Chuck) Kennicutt II
Texas A&M University

My most memorable trip on the Polar Duke was my "close encounter of the
first kind."  We had been contacted to respond to the now infamous
Bahia Paraiso spill in Arthur Harbor.  As you remember, a quick
response team was on the scene within a few weeks (March,1989) of the
grounding of the Argentine ship which released about 600,000 liters of
diesel fuel arctic into the Palmer Station harbor.  I had not
previously been to Palmer Station and my lone Antarctic experience was
on the Islas Orcadas (the old Eltanin) many years before.  We were
instructed to bring "everything you need" and needless to say we did!
We finally arrived at King George island on a C-130 after an aborted
attempt and began to offload a cargo bay full of equipment.  I was
under the assumption the Duke would be waiting and we would quickly
offload the sizable packing crates and be on our way.  The Airguard
quickly dumped our cargo at the end of the runway and flew off into the
distance.  As I was standing in a mounting snowstorm I asked the
seemingly simple question "Which way to the dock to board the Polar
Duke?"  I got this quizzical look from the Chileans that met us.  An
unidentified person said that the Duke was waiting and pointed in the
direction of the Bay.  At first I couldn't see anything in that
direction, but with further guidance I saw this little white and red
dot bouncing in the harbor.  That was the Duke.  As I looked at all of
our cargo and the intervening hills and gullies I had a sinking
feeling.  It was getting darker and the rate of snowfall appeared to be
increasing.  Never to be ones that dawdle, we were able to get the
Chileans to load our equipment on half-tracks and at least get us to
the dock.  I use the term "dock" loosely since the one that was
available looked more suited to canoes than oceanographic research
vessels and was in dire need of repair with several planks missing.  It
was at this point I first encountered ASA and Duke personnel.  They
were huddled around a less than professional piece of woodwork that had
been sent to serve as a stand for our grab sampler.  In haste it had
been made of two-by-fours and nailed together with ten penny nails.  As
you well know, the skill level of the support personnel you meet in
Antarctica is awesome and this work of art particularly caught their
fancy.  To add to their delight, the stand had an air cargo sticker
emblazoned on it telling all the world we had air-shipped this from the
US.  In addition somebody had written the name of a then-famous
animated character on it.  It was labelled "Roger Rabbit."  As I
approached the crowd, that was now in quite animated conversation
themselves, they turned and asked "Who framed Roger Rabbit?"  Having
had significant experience at sea and knowing that first impressions
often set the tone for the expedition I decided to assert myself and
stepped forward and declared "This is my piece of equipment and I will
hold anyone damaging it responsible!"  Needless to say the group was
somewhat taken aback but must have figured this guy is almost strange
enough to fit in with the program.  After several hours and heroic
efforts hand-loading massive boxes into the zodiac and ferrying them to
the boat we got all of our equipment onboard.  During these operations
the seas and snowfall continued to increase.  Everyone proceeded to get
wet, the loading was quite strenuous and the zodiac shuttles were
anything but fun.  I waited on the dock for the last piece of equipment
to be loaded and I knew this was going to be a good trip.  We had very
quickly become part of  the team and we all worked shoulder-to-shoulder
to get the job done.  The people from the boat and the support
personnel went far beyond their duty and even overlooked our naivity to
be sure that the job was done and that everything and everyone was
safely onboard, including Roger Rabbit.  We transitted to Palmer
Station and our group continued to work off the Duke in close proximity
to the islands developing a comprehensive sampling plan to monitor the
effects of the spill.  The Duke's crew were expert and maneuveured the
ship quite close to the rocky and forboding islands ensuring that
stations were accurately occupied and that we were able to get the
samples we needed.

I was lucky enough to participate in three more trips to Palmer Station
(most times being met by a Roger Rabbit refrain!) and always found the
Duke and her crew to be effective, professional and extremely helpful
in all facets of our work.  I will truly miss the opportunity to work
with them again and will always cherish the memories.  Thanks to the
Duke and the wonderful times you allowed me to share with you.