GOLF 1-8-2 Antarctica Expedition 2006/2007 The Deep Freeze Archive
Day 47 – 31 December 2006 – New Year’s Eve and Ice-stock
Like Woodstock, but smaller, more intimate, and involving much less nudity (lest we have a serious case of frostbite on our hands), Ice-stock is an annual McMurdo music tradition. An all-day event, it involves a variety of local talent, musicians, costumes, a chili cook-off, and even a very quirky beard-growing competition! Alternating between cleaning out the lab and enjoying the festivities, between packing up gear and wolfing down chili, we eventually squeezed in a full day’s work and a full day’s play. It was a very “Mactown” goodbye to our 2006 field season!
Day 46 – 30 December 2006 – No Royal Society Range
We managed to finagle our way into the helicopter schedule today (the folks at the helipad worked some serious magic on our behalf), but unfortunately, the weather looked horrid across the sound this morning. Would we make it out to the Royal Society Range? After all that finagling, no! This is the price of doing business in the Antarctic, folks, and thus ends our sampling season. In the next few days we plan to collect all of our things together, ship our samples, return our gear, and tie up any loose ends that need to be dealt with before we go. Oh, yes, and of course we’ll be enjoying the New Year’s celebrations, McMurdo style
Day 45 – 29 December 2006 – Waiting on Our Last Site!
With yesterday’s unexpected delay, our final trip out is now postponed until Saturday. We plan to sample in the Royal Society Range near Radian Glacier, but for now, we have to wait and see if it’s logistically feasible. Keep your fingers crossed ...
Day 42 & 43 – 27 and 28 December 2006 – Not your Mother’s Antarctic Experience
Now the real adventure begins!
After an unsuccessful attempt at sampling Nausea Knob (so-named because of its lofty altitude and the resulting acute mountain sickness that afflicts unacclimatized visitors), we returned to McMurdo to rethink our plans for the day. We had originally expected to land our helicopter near Nausea Knob, collect samples, then hike up to the rim of the caldera on Mount Erebus. However, the helicopter engine kept overheating every time we tried to land, so we decided to bump up our schedule and sample Fang Ridge instead. Fang Ridge is located further down Mount Erebus and is actually the remains of an older caldera rim. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on the volcano should be found there, topping at 1.07 million years of age.
We flew into Upper Fang Ridge, and with the help of our field safety guide and a borrowed snowmobile, we descended Fang Glacier to reach our site at Lower Fang Ridge. Crossing the glacier required ditching the snowmobile, roping up together with harnesses, helmets and ice axes and probing for crevasses while hiking across: quite an ordeal, but invaluable for our safety.
We carefully crossed the glacier, sampled some gorgeous rocks, then returned back the way we came, grabbed our snowmobile, and drove back up to Upper Fang to await our helicopter. We made radio contact with HeloOps, who informed us that our flight would be along shortly, in the next half-hour or so. So we waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally we received another transmission from the folks at HeloOps “Hi, Hubert. You probably already realized this, but Mike [the pilot] isn’t coming to get you guys. He can’t get up there. Low cloud ceiling. There’s no visibility down by the coast.”
That was our cue to dig into our survival bags and set up camp! We ducked into our Scott tent, and after 20 minutes or so of fiddling with the straps on the survival bag, marveling at how cruel fate would be if we couldn’t even open the dang thing, we finally busted it open and pulled out the gear. Julie started up the WhisperLite stove so we could melt snow and make hot water bottles to sleep with (and later, to drink). Elise set up the mats and sleeping bags, while waiting for her dehydrated meal to finish cooking. Six-foot-three Hubert marveled at how he would be able to fit inside his tiny sleeping bag. We ate a meager dinner, then tried to get to sleep.
And boy was it cold! The air temperature was around –30°C, and the frigid cold coupled with thin air and bright sun made sleep very difficult. The night was long, toes went numb, but luckily we made it through and were able to be picked up by the helicopter the next morning (needless to say, after returning to McMurdo we treated ourselves to a well-deserved nap)!
Day 42 – 26 December 2006 – Happy Birthday, Hubert!
Hubert awoke to find his office festooned with birthday streamers (finely crafted out of geological sampling goodies – flagging tape, sample labels and pump hoses). We were supposed to celebrate the big day atop Mount Erebus, one of our last stops here in the Antarctic, but the weather is being stubborn again and refuses to cooperate. Julie, in her best effort to persuade the sun to come out and the wind to die down, took a shower (a strategy that has worked well in the recent past – as soon as she hops in the shower the weather clears up and we have to go get messy again in the field). Unfortunately, her plan fails so far today. But we’re still waiting, fingers crossed
Day 41 – 25 December 2006 – Christmas
It’s Christmas on the ice! McMurdo celebrated with a white-to-grey, not-too-cold-and-windy Christmas day. We started out with a brunch that gave McMurdo’s finest: a buffet with cheeses, lox, all kinds of fruit, kiwis, melon, honeydew, grapes, and yes, even fresh Hawaiian papayas! There were eggs of every description, and waffles made fresh with all kinds of toppings, from berries to syrup to whipped cream. Nobody went hungry, least of all the Golf-182 team, with plates piled high, and bellies full. As Hubert left the galley, he was asked to participate in a mystery “Santarctic” event at an undisclosed location. Unsure of what he was in for, he reluctantly agreed, as it was “something to do on an otherwise fairly quiet, uneventful day.” He had no idea why they asked him to participate, but allow him to report on his outing.
Day 40 – 24 December 2006 – When, What to My Wondering Eyes should Appear?
Christmas Eve at McMurdo brings the big Christmas feast. In preparation for this event and to work up an appetite, we went skiing on the sea ice to Cape Armitage and the Kiwi Base. It was a beautiful day, and we were happy to get a bit of fresh air. We then shared a wonderful meal with our fellow McMurdoids: roast duck, beef Wellington, shrimp, lobster and most importantly – pumpkin pie: the perfect end to a Christmas Eve in Antarctica.
‘Twas the before Christmas, and all through the station,
Not a skua was stirring, to Julie’s elation;
The parkas were hung by the galley with care,
In hopes they would still fit after the meal we would share…
(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
Day 39 – 23 December 2006 – Altitude Class and the Night Before the Night Before Christmas
Today we wrapped Elise in a giant pressurized hotdog, just for kicks. Well, that and we were attending a course on altitude sickness and proper usage of the Gamov bag in preparation for our upcoming trip to the summit of Mount Erebus. The Gamov bag allows someone suffering from the effects of severe altitude sickness to feel as though they are a couple thousand feet lower in elevation than they actually are. While we don’t expect to have to use this handy little sausage on our day trip, it was helpful to learn how to recognize the onset of altitude sickness and the steps to prevent it (rest and hydration). Still, it was all Elise could do to restrain herself from singing the familiar
“Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner…”. Later that night we attended the annual Christmas party in the heavy shop. The heavy shop is just what it sounds like: an industrial warehouse with big, heavy, testosterone-laden equipment parked inside. But every year the heavy shop staff makeover the ugliest building on the premises, transforming it to be the most festive and merry. Bedecked in Christmas lights and various other sparkly decorations, filled with music and people and food and grog, the shop was transformed into a magical world of holiday revelry. Very fun!
Day 38 – 22 December 2006 – The Epic Saga Continues ...
Today dawns sunny and warm at McMurdo: a day pregnant with possibilities, hopes and dreams. The Golf-182 team has big plans to finish most of the remaining Erebus sites today, and the weather seems promising. But weather in Antarctica can turn on a dime and could dash their hopes. After retreating before a dangerously advancing cloud bank yesterday and being forced to leave behind their cores on Mt. Bird, one question remains: is Golf-182 striving for a goal that is beyond their reach? They are joined today by pilot Paul Murphy in their daring quest to retrieve the abandoned samples. Whether or not they are successful in this mission remains to be seen. The flight to Mt. Bird is uneventful, and the team lands in high spirits near their previous sampling site. Tensions soon mount, however, when they discover that the drill site has been covered with snow by the harsh Antarctic winds. Fortunately, Hubert’s experienced eyes and hands allows him to find minute, telltale signs that eventually lead him to each and every core sample. The day is saved – for now. As the team works diligently in the increasingly bitterly cold winds to retrieve the cores, Paul fashions a musical instrument out of a discarded piece of scientific equipment and serenades them in an attempt to lift their battered spirits.
Finally, all the cores are recovered and team G-182 descends to the rocky shores of Cape Bird to find additional sampling locations. These sites have previously been sampled by another group for dating, and G-182 has been given the site coordinates. By now, though, the sun has swept a wide
arc through the Antarctic sky, and the group is engaged in a race against time to find and sample the sites, aided only by a single GPS receiver and their own wits. After hiking miles and narrowly escaping a flock of vicious skuas, the group of intrepid adventurers locates one of the sites. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the sun has deserted G-182, forcing them to orient their samples with the complicated and touchy differential GPS unit. This means the group must remain hours longer on the barren cliff, exposed to the harsh Antarctic elements, wondering if they will ever see the comforts of McMurdo station again. Things start to look ever more grim when Hubert starts hallucinating about a flock of marauding penguins charging up the hill in an unprovoked attack upon the innocent scientists. This madness is seemingly contagious, and now Paul believes he is on a tropical island in the South Pacific. But Elise and Julie manage to hold the group together, and miraculously, everyone makes it through alive, having also achieved the ambitious scientific goals. Before the group wings their way home to a well-deserved warm meal and shower, they stop by to visit their friends at the Kiwi hut on Cape Bird. They are treated to a guided tour of the penguin colony, where those miraculous little creatures have recently hatched and are bravely making their way into the cruel, harsh world that is Antarctica.
Day 37 – 21 December 2006 – Crash Nunatak and Mount Bird
We had plans of sampling the nunatak (an exposure surrounded by glacial ice) on the northern slope of Erebus. However, unbeknownst to us, the portion of the outcrop that we wanted was located within an Antarcic Specially Protected Area, or ASPA, as part of a memorial for Air New Zealand flight 901, which crashed nearby in 1979. The gps coordinates we were given were supposedly outside of the protected area, however, the only rocks to be found were within its borders, so we had to give up the site, and instead flew north to the top of Mount Bird. At Mount Bird it was difficult to find coherent outcrop, as the whole area is mostly covered with lose rock, but after a good half hour of searching, we found a teeny-tiny-little exposure and drilled it. Unfortunately, at that point the fog rolled in and we had to rush back in the helicopter and abandon our site before we could orient the samples.
Day 36 – 20 December 2006 – Mr. Hooper and Mr. William Generously Donate Rocks to Support our Cause ...
Today we fly to Hooper’s Shoulder Cone and to William’s Cliff, both located on the flanks of Mount Erebus. We collect three sites with close helicopter support from our pilot, Paul Murphy.
Day 35 – 19 December 2006 – Stuck in Purgatory, Part III
Thinking we were on a good roll after our record-breaking sampling effort yesterday, we were disappointed to be put on "weather hold" early this morning. Due to cloudy and foggy conditions, the helicopters were not flying. We eventually cancelled the flight, and spent the day tidying up the lab in preparation for new lab neighbors due to arrive tomorrow. For the rest of our stay at McMurdo, we will be sharing our space with a group from Purdue University.
Day 34 – 18 December 2006 – Four Sites in the Bag
Team record! Today we collect four sites: One at Abbott Peak, two at Hooper’s Shoulder, and one at Turks Head. We pull a long day, but arrive back at the lab with pounds and pounds of glycol-covered booty in tow ...
Day 33 – 17 December 2006 – Exposure? EXPLOSURE!
Sunday would ordinarily be our day off, but we pull in another site close to the base while reviewing our drilling technique with Jeff’s posse. The rocks at this site are outcropping only because the folks at McMurdo have been blasting with dynamite in the last few weeks! (They’re putting in a new building and have to clear out the rocky rubble first. This exposes the lava rock underneath.
Day 32 – 16 December 2006 – Bomb Peak and Three Sisters
Today we take Bomb Peak and Three Sisters, a collection of parasitic cones on the flanks of Mount Erebus. The ground around these areas is just littered with large anorthoclase crystals that weather out of the outcrop. It’s a beautiful day and after sampling the outcrop, while waiting for the helicopter, we sift through the gravel and race to see who can find the most perfectly formed crystal.
Day 31 – 15 December 2006 – Jeff’s Arrival
Jeff Gee (a fellow paleomagnetist from Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and his posse of petrologists join us in McMurdo before barreling off to the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) divide to sample the rocks of the Dufek Intrusion. For them, it will be one whole month in a deep field camp! With two tons of food and five tons of gear, it’ll be a major operation for them just to set up camp, let alone collect their samples.
Day 30 – 14 December 2006 – Stuck in Purgatory, Part II
Luckily we made it out yesterday after all. Two sites in the bag! Unfortunately, today we are on standby again. By the time we do manage to get out, it is so cold that our 15% glycol-water mixture (that we use to cool the drill) freezes inside the pump can and we are unable to collect any samples. Looks like we’ll have to “up the ante” or rather, up the anti-freeze
... tomorrow we’ll try a 50% glycol mixture (the stuff is sticky and unpleasant, and with the viscosity of maple syrup, it spatters all over our faces while drilling).
Day 29 – 13 December 2006 – Stuck in Purgatory,
Part I Helo Ops calls this morning and puts us on standby. Just when the weather up on Mount Erebus has cleared, the weather around the station has taken a turn for the worse. No helicopters are flying in or out at present. So now we’re stuck in purgatory, fingers crossed, rattling our chains and waiting to hear from Helo Ops. We may fly. We may not. We don’t know! We’ll be given an hour’s notice if the weather gets better.
Day 28 – 12 December 2006 – Snowcraft II What sounds like a new-fangled video game is actually a course offered by FSTP (the field safety training program). Cecelia takes us to the icefalls and teaches us the ins and outs of hiking up steep snow slopes, walking in crampons, proper ice-axe usage, and self-arrest in case we fall. This will prove useful in our fieldwork if we ever have to get from one outcrop to the other and there’s a glacier (complete with crevasse field) in our way.
Day 27 – 11 December 2006 – Fogged In The helicopter pilot takes us out this morning and offers to drop us off at one of our site destinations with the caveat that he might not be able to fly back in and pick us up. Cloudy weather is coming in and the helicopter may not be able to land. Not wanting to have to dig into the survival bags just yet, not wanting to spend three hours drilling a site and the next forty-eight waiting to be picked up, we opt to return to McMurdo empty-handed.
Day 26 – 10 December 2006 – Sunday: A Day of Rest The helicopters don’t fly out on Sunday, so we have yet another day of miscellaneous office work. But don’t feel too sorry for us. We begin the day with the famous Sunday brunch buffet, and end it with a cross-country ski excursion along the Armitage Loop on the sea ice. Not a bad end to a weekend!
Day 25 – 9 December 2006 – Hut Point Ridge Trail Windy weather restricts our activities to the base. We take this opportunity to catch up on an assortment of office assignments that have piled up during the week and to smooth out logistics for our next flight out on Monday. Not the most exciting of days, but we end it with a hike up the Hut Point Ridge Trail, a pleasant (albeit windy and cold) walk just north of McMurdo Station.
Day 24 – 8 December 2006 – Cape Bird and Lots of Little Birdies Each day prettier than the last! With sun and warm weather, we fly to Cape Bird to sample a stack of basaltic lava flows. Scrambling up scree slopes, with crumbly rock underfoot and ice and debris coming down from above, we finally reach a gorgeous outcropping of lavas. We work long and we work hard, stopping our sampling every once in awhile to admire the view of the Adelie penguins floating on their little icebergs offshore. When we are done with our work, the local biologists (the “penguin people”) invite us into their hut for a cup of hot tea. The trip home includes an aerial reconnaissance (or “recki”) of Mount Erebus, where we get breathtaking views of volcanic vents, icefalls, and the Erebus Glacier Tongue.
Day 23 – 7 December 2006 – The Wrong Valley? No, the Wright Valley!
Our sampling goals for today include four sites in the Wright Valley, a dry valley on the Antarctic mainland. We helicopter out to do some aerial scouting, only to find that three out of the four sites are bogus! (Piles of loose rock, no in situ outcrop). We sample the fourth site, a spatter cone, and wait for the helicopter to return and pick us up. On the flight home we fly over the ice edge (the boundary between the sea ice and the open ocean), where we are treated to a view of icebergs, penguins, seals, and even two minke whales!
Day 22 – 6 December 2006 – Sea Ice Blowout
The sea ice will be breaking up soon (we’ve seen it get progressively slushier and progressively more cracked with each day that we’ve been out). Luckily we are through with our sampling of Erebus Bay. Twelve sites. Not bad! Now we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the sea ice recedes past Hut Point (it hasn’t in the past 7 years). If McMurdo Station becomes waterfront property, we may be able to see killer whales from our laboratory window!
Day 21 – 5 December 2006 – Finishing Erebus Bay
Today we take Tent Island! And Inaccessible Island! Then back to Tent for orienting. Then back to Inaccessible for more of the same. We bandy back and forth between the two sites like we’re playing ping-pong. This is what happens when you’re dependent on the sun for orienting your samples and the outcrops are in partial shade!
Day 20 – 4 December 2006 – Skua: 2, Julie: 0
You’d think she’d have learned her lesson the first time around. This time the bird took a ham sandwich and Julie’s left pinky finger. Kidding, kidding. We’ve been extremely wary since the first skua incident, and opt to eat lunch in a warming hut instead of in the open air. Sites taken today include Little Razorback and Tent Island.
Day 19 – 3 December 2006 – Keeping Warm, Antarctica Style
Vicious winds today! With speeds as high as 20 knots this is probably the windiest weather we’ve seen so far, but at least it gives us the chance to fully utilize every last piece of our extreme cold weather gear on the snowmobile ride home. In spite of the cold, we manage to sample Big Razorback Island and explore Tent Island for good outcrop. Unrecognizable as human beings, looking more like piles of laundry, we navigate the sea ice, making sure to stop at the “warming huts” along the way to defrost our fingers and toes.
Day 18 – 2 December 2006 – Skua: 1, Julie: 0
Julie has a very “Hitchcockian” incident this morning while returning from the galley. In a scene that could be straight out of The Birds, Julie is attacked by a vicious skua, determined to free her from her buttered toast! Despite her best efforts to thwart the feathered beast, she steps away from the scene absent one continental breakfast. Fieldwork today includes revisiting the dike near Turks Head to finish orienting our samples as well as sampling Turks Head itself. The slush ponds deepen as the tide comes in, so we have to wade through water in order to make it home!
Day 17 – 1 December 2006 – Another Hut, Another Dollar
Seventeen days into the field season. Or maybe it’s only been one day. One long day. Who’s keeping track? We’ve still no sign of a dark night sky! This morning (noon, night?) we go on a hike to Hut Point, where we see Robert Falcon Scott’s other hut. We even get a nice light snow!
Day 16 – 30 November 2006 – Scott Base
Thursday night is American night at Scott Base. We take a shuttle from McMurdo Station and visit our Kiwi neighbors. There they have the luxury of having all their buildings interconnect, a great design idea for the abominable weather (which at the moment, is actually not so abominable at all)! At the end of the night we take a brisk walk back to our home away from home at McMurdo.
Day 15 – 29 November 2006 – Turks Head and Seal Colony
Today we scouted for our final sites in Erebus Bay. Turks Head and the surrounding area look promising. We drilled a dike to the north of Turks Head, but the weather turned as we were collecting samples, so we’ll have to come back another day to finish orienting. The nearby Razorback Islands also have beautiful outcroppings of lava flows, but unfortunately they have steep-sided cliffs which are notorious for landslides, so we might have to pass. Aside from all the “geologizing,” we’ve also been admiring the local wildlife. It’s been difficult managing our way around the sea ice without tripping over the Weddell seals; there are so many of them! This time of year we’ve been seeing a lot of new mothers with their pups.
Day 14 – 28 November 2006 – NSF Guys
Tom Wagner and Brian Stone from the National Science Foundation join us in drilling site MC204 at Cape Evans. Convinced that we were playing some horrible practical joke on them, they were hesitant to wear the floor-length garbage-bag-gowns we usually sport while drilling. Finally they caved in, put on their “raincoats”, and made Swiss cheese out of the rocks.
Day 13 – 27 November 2006 – Paleomagnetic Sampling Extravaganza
Today is a long one. We collect samples from three sites (MC201-MC203): a lava flow near Cape Royds, another on Inaccessible Island and a dike off Cape Barne. While traveling to our first site we meet a lone emperor penguin out on the sea ice who is kind enough to let us take a few photos!
Day 12 – 26 November 2006 – Ob Hill and Film Screening
The GPS is working again, thanks to the know-how and perseverance of Dr. Julie Bowles! The rest of the day is spent at the base. Julie and Elise take a walk up the nearby Observation Hill. The view to the west is positively breath-taking (you can see all of McMurdo Sound); the view east is positively industrial (you can see all of McMurdo Station). In the afternoon, we huddle in the galley and are treated to a special screening of Werner Herzog’s latest film, Rescue Dawn (a captivating story, highly recommended by the Golf-182 team).
Day 11 – 25 November 2006 – Thanksgiving Day at McMurdo
It’s overcast today, which forbids us from using the sun compass to orient our samples. No matter. We spend the day in camp trying to figure out why the differential GPS isn’t working and enjoying a belated Thanksgiving dinner. On the menu here at McMurdo Station: roast penguin with a light cranberry sauce ... (kidding, kidding)!
Day 10 – 24 November 2006 – Our first site
Heavenly day! Optimal drilling conditions! With full sun and no wind, we may be getting spoiled. Our team returns to Cape Royds and drills the first site. We review our standard drilling, orienting and collecting protocol, then dress ourselves in oversized garbage bags and drill, drill, drill. (The garbage bags aren’t for looks, by the way – we wear them to keep from getting cold, wet and frozen from drill water splatter). We do more scouting of Cape Barnes, Cape Evans, and Inaccessible Island. We’re finding lots of promising outcrops here in Erebus Bay …
Day 09 – 23 November 2006 – Cape Royds
Our first glimpse of Mount Erebus! Scouting is the goal for today, so we maneuver our snowmobiles over sea ice and investigate outcrop along the shoreline. First stop is our northernmost site at Cape Royds, an hour-and-a-half drive from the Hut Point Peninsula (where McMurdo Station sits). Cape Royds is home to an Adelie penguin rookery and to Ernest Shackleton’s hut, a relic from the Antarctic “Age of Exploration” some 100 years ago. After a tour of the hut and a brief photo op, we hike over some Mount Erebus lava flows that form Cape Royds and find a good sampling site. It is also sufficiently far from the rookery so we don’t get in the way of the waddling toddlers in tuxedos at the cape. We make note of a number of sites in Backdoor Bay, and on our return trip home we make a detour to inspect Robert Falcon Scott’s hut, another historical slice of Antarctic exploration.
Day 08 – 22 November 2006 – Food-fun and snowmobile maintenance
More errands and meetings. Today the Golf-182 team went grocery shopping at the Berg Field Center (BFC). We trawled through shelves and shelves of glorious food, pulling various soups and dehydrated meals off the shelves and into our cart. It is important to stay well fed while in the cold, so we returned to the lab with enough Cliff bars and trail mix to last us clear into next spring. Next we headed to the Mechanical Equipment Center (MEC) for a briefing on basic snowmobile maintenance – don’t leave home without your spare sparkplugs …
Day 07 – 21 November 2006 – Radios and Learning Phonetics
We were issued our radios today. Finally we have the opportunity and excuse to use radio-speak and the phonetic alphabet: “Juliet Bravo! Juliet Bravo! This is Echo Sierra. How copy?” We’ve been practicing. Later at night we attended yet another course in outdoor safety and check-out protocol. Every time we leave McMurdo proper we have to check out with the fire station and take a radio. Storms can materialize very quickly around here. And with the risk of cold injuries and other weather-related hazards, safety is key: if someone misses their scheduled return time, the fire department will send out a search-and-rescue party.
Day 06 – 20 November 2006 – Sea Ice Training
The Golf-182 team spent the majority of the day walking (and driving) on water! Today we attended and all-day course on how to safely drive across sea ice. With the help of the Field Safety Training Program (FTSP) staff, we learned the steps to determine whether or not it is safe to drive our light-duty vehicles (snowmobiles and pisten bullies) over large cracks in the ice. Drilling several holes that profile the crack, our team made sure that the sea ice was thick enough to support our weight before making a crossing.
Day 05 – 19 November 2006 – Sunday Brunch Spectacular
Today we got a break from all those mandatory training briefs. We woke up to a leisurely Sunday brunch (complete with full waffle bar, pastry buffet, and all the omelet anyone could ever want), but soon after, we had to go back to work organizing and testing all of our field equipment. With our field equipment accounted for, we took a quick cross-country-ski break to the airfield, and then trotted off to the Berg Field Center (BFC) to take inventory of all the camping gear that we had been issued for our overnight expedition. After sorting through an endless stack of tents, sleeping bags, heaters, backpacks, and “human waste” buckets, we called it quits and went to dinner. Sunday dinner consisted of Alaskan king crab legs and beef brisket (the dining situation is clearly not as bad as we’d anticipated, however we are starting to miss fresh fruit and vegetables -- or “freshies”).
Day 03 and 04 – 17 and 18 November 2006 – More Training and Safety Tips
The first day on the ice! Temperatures are below -6°C, rather decent, but quite different from the 26°C we are used to in San Diego, California. Today we sat through a variety of safety briefings; it’s clear they want us to look back on a pleasant and safe austral summer here at McMurdo. Both Julie and Elise started with “Happy Camper School,” a two-day course on how to stay safe while working out in the field away from McMurdo station. The cold and wind can be very dangerous if you don’t know what to do or aren’t prepared, and the weather here in Antarctica can take a turn for the worse very rapidly. In order to prepare for such conditions, we learned a lot of life-saving skills, like how to use the radio to communicate with McMurdo while out in the field, how to build snow shelters and quinzees , and how to search for a missing person during a whiteout when you can’t even see the hand in front of your face! Lots of fun, but also things that could save our lives if we get stuck in a troublesome spot.
Day 01 and 02 – 15 and 16 November 2006 – Flying in from New Zealand
Julie has the slight advantage by flying out of her home in Honolulu. For Elise and Hubert, the trip from San Diego to McMurdo is quite a long one. First we had to fly to Los Angeles, then a 12-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland we took a quick transfer flight to Christchurch, where we were issued our cold weather gear and sent on the final leg of our trip: 5 hours onboard a US Air force C17 cargo jet. Upon arrival we landed on the Annual Sea Ice Runway west of McMurdo Station, Ross Island. The scenery while approaching the continent was spectacular. However, it was a little disorienting to leave Christchurch where spring was blossoming and land 5 hours away in a place where you can see almost nothing except snow and ice. It was perhaps even more disorienting to be able to see the sun at 10pm. And at midnight. And at 3am. The sun never sets here in the summer!