My Second Antarctic Adventure – Palmer Station – Part I

A new Beginning – copyright 2009 Jack W. Cummings

In October 1963 I was stationed in San Diego, California assigned to the Staff of Commander Service Squadron One (CSR-1), which was at that time located on the Service Squadron Repair Tender, USS Jason. I was ending my second year on the staff and was getting itchy feet anticipating my next duty station. In writing the final chapter of my First Antarctic Adventure, I neglected to mention that my duty station with CSR-1 was my first assignment after spending two years with Commander Antarctic Support Activities (CASA), which included a year at Hallett Station.

Sometime in October, my “itchy” feet brought me to the ship’s personnel office where I learned that the call had just gone out from CASA looking for volunteers for DeepFreeze ‘65. Since I was single and had nothing to hold me in the San Diego area, this seemed like the opportunity I had been waiting for “to get outta Dodge”. I know that some folks would think a person would be crazy to want to return to “this horrible place”, as some have described the Antarctic. However there is something about this beautiful continent that continues to pull anyone who has spent time there back time and time again.

So with confidence that comes from experience, I sent in my request and within a month I had my transfer in hand to report to the Naval Station at Treasure Island, California for my pre-screening physical and psychiatric assessment, where I would meet up with other “fools” from the West Coast who had volunteered for duty on the “Ice”. I was confident that I would pass with flying colors and was happily looking forward to my second Antarctic Adventure. Little did I know that God had a surprise in store for me in December. It happened as follows; – since my parents had recently moved from our home town in Colorado, to Rialto, California, it was my habit to drive the 90 miles to their home each weekend. Being single, I also would go out bar-hopping every Saturday evening. One evening as I approached my first bar, a feeling came over me and at that point I turned around and drove home. As I walked through the door, my mother looked up in surprise and asked “why I was home so early”. I responded that I did not know, but felt that I should probably start attending church, and I was going to ask my nephew Dennis if he would go with me – tomorrow! There just happened to be an American Baptist Church in the neighborhood, so that would be my choice. The next morning as Dennis and I sat in the congregation, I notice this beautiful young woman in the choir who, fortunately, was not wearing a wedding ring. Impulsively, I told Dennis, that someday that lady was going to be my wife! Little did I know that a series of events would take place over the next four weeks that would bring about my marriage on January 3rd, 1964 to Barbara Kuhns – that beautiful lady in the choir. As I write this chapter, on January 4th 2009, I am still feeling the glow of our 45th Anniversary celebration.

I was amazed at how gracefully Barbara transitioned from her life as a Junior High Art Teacher in San Bernardino to the nomadic life of a Navy Wife living in Wickford, Rhode Island, knowing that her new husband would soon be destined to leave her to spend a year in the Antarctic. So, in a sense this is Barbara’s Antarctic Adventure as much as it is mine.  JWC

3 thoughts on “My Second Antarctic Adventure – Palmer Station – Part I

  1. Jack, I just recently discovered this blog, and after getting a bunch of info from the dedication of the permanent Palmer Station, I’d like to use a few more of your photos with credit as well as link to your blog. Your old email no longer works, can you give me a shout?

  2. Like Bill above, I just discovered this page, and since my wife and I were in the Antarctic several years ago, and intend to return in 2020. As an old sailor I have always been fascinated with the Southern ocean. At my age (77) the only practical way is a cruise liner. We did have the people from Palmer visit the ship, and we thoroughly enjoyed them. The change in climate is quite evident for a thoughtful observer, and I could only wish it would be removed from politics. I would guess that soon it will be closed to most but, a very few.

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