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


Beset in ice
Ed DeLong
University of California at Santa Barbara

The Polar Duke, under the able command of Captain Sigvald Brandal, set
sail from Punta Arenas on August 16 1995, for the opening of the
Antarctic Spring season at Palmer Station. Aboard was the turnaround
crew of the Antarctic Support Associates, and two science parties. One
of the most experienced still-practicing Antarctic biologists, Art
DeVries and his team, was on board, along with one of the greenest
rookies then starting out in polar research, Ed DeLong and two graduate
students, Alison Murray and Chris Preston.  It was an unusual year.
The Polar Duke hit pancake ice at about 55'S in Drake Passage, one of
the most northerly ice sightings the Polar Duke had seen in many
crossings.  Though ice was thick on approaching the Antarctic
Peninsula, there was enough clear water for ice fishing by the DeVries
group in Dahlman bay.  After successful fishing, the Duke departed for
the final leg into Palmer Station.  Within sight of Anvers Island, the
Duke attempted to make headway into the Gerlache Straight and Neumeyer
Channel, but it was not to be.  In between Brababt Island and Anvers
Island, about 20 miles from Palmer Station, the Duke came to a near
standstill in the fast ice, which was covered with 2 to 3 feet of
snow.  After 24 hours of constant ice ramming the Duke had made only 1
km headway, so Captain Brandal decided to head back North.  But Mother
Nature had other plans for the Polar Duke: the pack ice had grown in
thickness and extent behind the Duke, and on August, 23 , on the west
side of Smith Island, the Polar Duke ceased to any make headway in her
northbound journey back to Punta Arenas.  Though no one really
mentioned it at the time, "beset" was the appropriate term for the
Polar Duke's condition.  She remained in this condition for about the
next l2 days.

Despite their uncertain condition, the Captain, crew, ASA and science
parties adapted and responded professionally and with a great sense of
humor to the uncertainty of the situation.  No one really knew how long
the Duke would remain in its beset condition.  But all aboard were
extremely optimistic, and worked hard to keep morale up and boredom
down.  Knot tying sessions, basketball, custom Antarctic icefish
T-shirt print making, numerous (yawn) science seminars, and abundant
after dark social events helped to keep spirits up on the immobilized
ship.  Several of the science and ASA parties (an appropriate term)
collaborated to keep all abreast of daily events, and lighten up the
atmosphere of the ice bound ship.  This collaboration resulted in the
establishment of the "Dukie News" a daily rag which suddenly appeared
after the Polar Duke ceased to make headway, every day in the mess
right before dinner.  Lines were long to get a copy hot off the press.
The Dukie News kept all informed of recent developments, provided
regular interviews, and biographic sketches of illustrious officers
crew of the Polar Duke.  The daily even offered an advice column for
those not coping well with the Duke's beset condition.

Eventually, the Captain and crew of the Duke took quick advantage of an
unanticipated window of opportunity, which Nature kindly provided.  On
September 3, after almost 2 weeks of of immobility, the winds shifted,
blowing the ice-bound Duke around southwest side of Smith Island.  The
Captain and crew of the Duke instantly responded, and led the Duke into
the open waters off the eastern shores of Smith Is..  Finally free of
the confining pack ice, the Duke promptly headed due North, hitting
open water in the Drake Passage, for a rough ride back to Punta
Arenas.

After a normally scheduled Reiber crew turnover, Captain Karl Sanden
took charge of the Polar Duke.  The Duke again departed Punta Arenas on
September 10, 1995, with an intitial stop for operations at King George
Is., to initiate field ops at the legendary Copa Cabana.  Mother Nature
won this round again however, as ice conditions precluded Copa
operations on this leg.  But under the skillful command of Captain
Sanden, along with a lucky shifting of winds and movement of pack ice,
the Duke finally docked at Palmer Station Antarctica, at 16:00 hours on
September 19, 1995.  One month off the scheduled arrival, thanks to the
heavy pack ice, but safe and sound! It was a great adventure for all
involved, and an appropriate initiation into Polar research for rookies
on board.  Lesson #1 : Mother Nature calls the shots.  It was
absolutely clear, especially to ASA and science parties, that we would
not have had so positive a detour, if not for the worthy vessel Polar
Duke, and her dedicated, professional, and personable captains and
crew.  The Duke will be missed by all who had the good fortune to sail
on her.  She's irreplacable.