Duluth?!? Duluth!


Greetings from Duluth. Duluth? Yeah, Duluth. A week ago I was finishing up on the ship in Punta Arenas, and all I knew about Duluth was that it was way up north, probably in Minnesota, and had a reputation for preternaturally brutal weather.

But Duluth sits at the western tip of the Great Lakes and is the site for this year’s Research Vessel Technical Enhancement Committee. The Great Lakes, we have been informed, contain 20% of the accessible fresh water on the planet and border more US coast line than the Atlantic and Pacific combined. It’s also a lovely town in its own right, with a sturdy midwest downtown tucked at the base of neighborhood-studded hills rising to the west. The best thing about living in Duluth, the taxi driver told me, was that everybody got a good view of the lake.

I wasn’t wrong about the weather, though. As the meeting opened this morning, our local coordinator apologized for the storm brewing outside and dropped the consoled us that, while we had a mere 30 knots of wind and eight-foot waves, at the lake’s eastern shore the waves were topping 35 feet. The same height, he noted, as when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down.
And yet, by the time we broke for lunch, the rain had passed, the lake was flat, and the sky an idyllic blue. Duluth clearly intends to keep us on our toes, one way or another. way…

The Lakewalk, with “Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum” offshore

This is only my second RVTEC, but it already feels like an old familiar crowd. A lot of folks here have sailed on the Palmer or worked at one of the Antarctic stations. And there’s a shared culture beyond that: the quirky world of ships. I remember when I first signed on with the Antarctic Program, and Beth was giving me the rundown on the personalities particular to each of the stations. She briefed me on McMurdo, Pole and Palmer Station, then paused when she got to describing the LMG and NBP. “The ships…” she said, before pausing again. “The ships are….different.”

I’ve tried to find words to describe my experiences with ship folks, and at the last RVTEC I was pleased to discover that ship folks seem to be more alike between ships than program folks are within a program. We’re all kind of different, I guess, but in the same way.


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