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21 - final journal entry:
I left the "Ice", the disks were successfully
recovered and everybody left by February 5. Looking
at the data, it seems like things went quite well.
However, the findings won't be ready for about a
year; it is a lot of work to go through that amount
of data, even with the help of computers!
I've been back in the US, I've visited both classes.
I was glad I got to visit the classes again and
answer some of their questions. I want to thank
both classes and both teachers for working with
me. I really loved working with you! Pictures
from my visits to the classes.
couple of weeks ago, the first ship made its way
into McMurdo. It was the US Coast Guard ice breaker,
named the Polar Sea. For a few days before it landed,
we could see it slowly approaching, breaking its
way through the seasonal sea ice. The Polar Sea's
Antarctic mission is to resupply science stations,
to break up a path through ice to various bases,
and escorting supply vessels. It and its sister
ship are the biggest Coast Guard ships and are the
most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers in the world.
the Polar Sea finishes its most vital missions,
it offers occasional morale cruises for the people
of McMurdo. I luckily got to go on one of these
cruises today. It was super neato! The ship itself
is quite large with all sorts of interesting compartments
to poke around in. One of the ship's weathermen
offered to take a few of us down to the engine and
engine control room. To go into the engine room
we were required to wear large earplug things. Nobody
was allowed to walk on the bottom section of the
room because it was deep with oil.
From the deck, you can see all the enormous pieces
of crushed ice surrounding the icebreaker, bobbing
around in the ocean. The ice has the most beautiful
shades ranging from white to blue.
not exactly sure where the Coast Guard took us since
it got cloudy and started snowing pretty quickly.
I liked the snow even though it detracted from the
view. We were enclosed in a totally white, featureless
of the really nice parts of the morale cruise is
that there is all sorts of wildlife to see. Most
of the life here lives along the coast in areas
where there's open water. I saw Adelie and Emperor
penguins, skuas, and seals in hordes. Very cute.
I kept hearing about people sighting whales, but
I would run to that part of the ship and the whale
would be gone. Most of the cruise had finished and
still I hadn't seen any whales, I was getting very
concerned. Finally, I saw a fin crest the top of
the water. I had seen a Minke whale! I guess there
were Orcas around too, but I didn't see any. I had
lots of fun, I certainly wouldn't mind going again!
Length = 399 ft
Beam (width) = 83.5 ft
Top of mast above waterline = 136 ft
Diesel capacity = 1,350,298 gallons
Maximum range in open water = 28,274 nautical miles
6 diesel engine sustained speed = 17 knots
Propellers = Three 16 ft diameter
Diesel-electric engines = 6
Gas turbine engines = 3
Gas turbine icebreaking ability = 6 foot ice at
3 knots continuous speed
Ship's crew = 14 officers, 130 enlisted
Helicopter detachment = 4 officers, 12 enlisted
Maximum scientific party = 35 scientists
Potable water = 26,586 gallons
Cranes = 4
General cargo = 400 tons
Helicopters = 2 HH-65A,
175 knots maximum speed,
400 nautical mile range
Boats = 1 25'8" Motor Surf Boat, 1 39' Arctic Survey
Boat, 2 36' Landing Craft, 1 25' Rigid Hull Inflatable
a few pictures from the morale cruise.
today! I really didn't think it was going to happen,
the weather seemed so chancey. When I first arrived
in the morning, I entered a room full of very tense
people. Very tense. This was rather understandable,
as people have devoted an enormous amount of time
to this project.
all had set jobs for certain points throughout the
day. So as the morning progressed, the tension seemed
to go down a little bit as people were able to keep
themselves busy. My personal job for the day was
mainly to shuttle people and supplies back and forth
between the lab and the launchpad on a snowmobile.
took me a little while to get the hang of getting
the snowmobile started. At first, I was unable to
manage both the pull-start and the gas pedal. My
oh-so-clever solution to this was to tie the gas
pedal down with a spare mitten. This worked quite
nicely - too nicely. After the motor started, the
snowmobile gunned forward. I had to throw myself
onto it, frantically trying to pull the mitten off
the gas pedal before I (and the snowmobile), were
rocketed into a delta. Luckily, distaster was averted
and I later figured out how to manage starting the
snowmobile without using my mitten.
about noon, the workers from the National Scientific
Balloon Facility (NSBF), the people who handle the
mechanics of the actual launch, came to pick up
the bottom payload otherwise known as the gondola.
It had to be loaded onto a delta which was specially
outfitted with a crane, for the occasion. After
getting it all set up, they drove the delta out
to the launch pad and then repeated the process
for the top package (the actual telescope).
everything was out at the launch pad, the balloon
itself and parachute for the bottom payload had
to be rolled out and attached to the equipment.
The point when they roll out the balloon is really
the point of no return. They can still cancel the
flight if absolutely necessary, but the balloon
cannot be reused. It is too likely that something
will have happened that ruined the balloon. After
everything was in place, inflation of the balloons
took place. I was looking around at my labmates
during this time, they were obviously very nervous
at this point, but nothing was within their control
anymore. They just had to sit and watch the NSBF
people do their job and hope that the weather would
stay good. Good weather means wind speed of 4 knots
or less. Basically, that equates to perfect conditions.
to my labmates. Even though they looked slightly
ill, there was a general good feeling; everyone
had done what they could and now they just had to
hope that the hard work would pay off. Since we
have the rather unique design of mounting the telescope
on top of the balloon, this launch was much trickier
than usual. First, a tow balloon must be put up
to lift thetop payload off the ground. That being
accomplished, they then started inflation of the
main balloon. This took about 45 minutes!
should mention that the day was an unusual mixture
of really interesting busy times and tremendously
long boring waits. To the amazement of my labmates,
I was even able to catch a nap in one of the slow
periods. For some reason, my response to the stress
around me was to fall asleep. I didn't fall asleep
during inflation though!
about an awe-inspiring event. At this point, the
sky was mostly cleared so there were these huge
expanses of sky, mountain, ice shelf, and then this
large silvery-clear balloon. The scale of everything
was so large.
the main balloon was filled, the tow balloon was
released, uncovering the telescope and letting it
rest its weight on top of the main balloon. We had
to wait a few minutes for a plane to land at the
very close by air field and then, whoosh, the balloon
and top payload were released. After some fantastic
driving by NSBF, the bottom payload was positioned
correctly and then released. Very exciting. The
balloon was then on its own.
we can do for the next week or two is moniter everything
and send some commands. Due solely to the circumpolar
winds, the balloon will circle the Antarctic continent
and hopefully return to about the same place. Then
we will attempt retrieve our disks. We are receiving
data now (via a satellite link), but much more will
be gained once we obtain the disks. Everything seems
to be going relatively smoothly. Yippee! Check
out the pictures from launch!
it's the holidays. People here seem to be a bit
homesick, but there is a lot of effort made to make
the evening of December 22, there was a small Hannukah
celebration. About 10 or 15 people attended and
more than half were not Jewish. People just came
to learn about the holiday and help celebrate. Jewish
holidays are supposed to start at sunset, but since
there is no sunset here, we just had to pick a time.
A large part of the Hannukah tradition is lighting
candles, but we are not allowed to have open flames
inside. The woman who organized the event had to
talk to several people in charge to get permisson.
One guy brought an accordian to entertain us. It
was a very fun celebration.
main Christmas dinner in McMurdo was served on December
24 because more people have Sunday off here. Lots
of food!! I also had a Christmas dinner out at Willy
Field on the 25th. This was a more intimate gathering.
For the past few years, a woman from the Air National
Guard has brought in special fresh foods that we
would otherwise never get. I think I actually shrieked
when I saw there was fresh milk to drink. Mmm...
don't know how she managed this, but there was also
real ice cream and bouquets of fresh flowers. It
was very, very nice of her to do all of this. Besides
all the work she did to make things nice, lots of
other people went to a great deal of trouble as
well. The galley workers here are the real backbone
of the holiday spirit. Both the TopHat team and
the experiment team next door are getting excited,
as our launch dates are quickly approaching. In
fact, the other experiment is scheduled to launch
as soon as there is good weather. Pictures
from the Willy Field Galley.
I was shuttling out to Willy Field this morning
in the Delta, I was watching the view out the window.
As a van passed us, sending clouds of fluffy snow
into the air like dust on a gravel road, it occurred
to me that snow is our dirt here. The landscape
is very beautiful here, but it is this tremendously
barren combination of jagged edged mountains and
flat plains of ice. Add to this the fact that it
is mostly white and blue here with the occasional
dark brown patch of volcanic rubble.
are no obvious indications of life here. However,
in terms of its geological history, Antarctica had
been about as prolific with life as all the other
continents. Looking at it now, who would have guessed?
are clues scattered about even though they have
been rather hard to find. Antarctica and all the
other continents were once part of one enormous
landmass. Life at that time varied regionally, but
not that much (kind of like how English is the official
US language, but people from different regions have
different accents). Due to shifting in the earth's
crust, the landmass broke apart and the continents
slowly drifted away from each other.
the continents became more isolated from one another,
the life developing on them developed in diffrent
ways, which became more and more pronouced with
time. As the years went by, Antarctica drifted down
to the southern-most part of the globe. Vegetation
and animals slowly died out due to various reasons.
do scientists tell that animals ever lived on this
continent? Fossils! Leaf impressions in stone and
even dinosaur bones! However, not that many fossils
have been found. More heavily relied upon is modern
biochemical techniques (DNA and such). It's really
hard to look around Antarctica now and imagine it
teeming with life. I guess things really change
with time, don't they? I got a lot of this information
from an article written by R. Oldfield from http://www-aadc.aad.gov.au/products/Data/ten_facts/Prehistory.asp.
Here are some
assorted pictures that have nothing to do with
I believe I left off right before I went to the
Ice Caves. They were so neat! I think I mentioned
that it was warm outside that day, but the caves
hovered around a cool (not cold) temperature. Now,
because snow is such a good insulator, the temperature
remains about the same inside, whether it is hot
or chilly-willy outside.
around the caves required a good deal of crawling
and wedging. There were 2 main types of crystalline
ice formations that I noticed. One was rounded like
the underside of a cloud and covered with something
that resembled hoar frost. The other was just like
stalactites or icicles.
we were walking around in a rift, the walls and
ceilings formed very unusual and interesting shapes.
Light was filtering through the ceilings, filling
the caves with the most beautiful blues and periwinkles
(there was even a little bit of green). If you wanted
to go beyond the main chambers, there were some
little side rooms that you had to worm yourself
into. This is NOT recommended by me, if you are
claustrophobic. I personally found it very exciting
to wedge myself between 2 walls of ice that were
separated by 6 inches. Frightening, but fun. I felt
kind of bonded with my group after the day was done.
What a busy day! Ice
I attended Sea Ice School. It was just as much fun
as Snow School, but in a different way. The day
happened to be absolutely beautiful, the best day
we've had so far this season. It was warm (around
freezing), sunny, and with very little wind; perfect
for being outside. We had a rather small group,
9 people including the instructor.
convening, we pretty quickly hopped into a Hagglund
and took off for the day. A Hagglund is a tracked,
amphibious vehicle. Sitting in the front is a noisy
experience, earplugs recommended! After looking
at a couple different types of cracks in the ice,
we headed off to the Instructor's hut for a lecture
on ice dynamics. Very interesting! We learned what
the different causes of ice cracks are, how to identify
them, and how to cross them safely (not all are
possible to cross!).
our lesson, we took a break to eat lunch. During
that time, we discussed what we wanted to do for
the day. Since no one in the group was required
to take this course, the instructor decided to skip
some of the lessons we had all had already and take
advantage of the beautiful day instead (fine by
me!). We decided to head out to the Razorback Islands
and look around there. On the way, we stopped and
explored an iceburg. We hiked up one side of it
and then slid down the other. Whee! It was nice
to see some of these ice and snow formations up
close, usually we have to steer clear of these areas
continuing on to Big Razorback Island, I realized
why we had picked this spot to visit. Tons of seals
had wiggled themselves out of the water to sun themselves
and nap! I even heard several of them snoring! We
were lucky to visit at this time of year, the momma
seals were out with their pups. What can I say about
the seals. They are shaped rather like enormous
slugs (although significantly cuter). I should mention
the sounds there. Usually it is absolutely quiet
here except for the wind (which can be very noisy).
Not so by the seals. They made these very loud,
gutteral sounds. Kind of like someone moaning in
pain or a woman giving birth. It made for an odd
that, we headed over to Little Razorback Island.
Once there, we first visited a diver's hut. A diving
hut is placed over a hole in the ice so that scuba
divers can go underwater without having to worry
that the hole they entered through will freeze closed.
That could be very dangerous. When the whole group
had entered the hut, we used our jackets to block
the light form the window. Then we took turns straining
to see the ocean bottom (it was just barely visible).
We could see floating in the water krill and some
other unidentified sea critter (it looked like a
small clear tube with fins). I decided to put my
hand in the water, very cold! The temperature of
the water was probably around 29 degrees Fahrenheit,
seawater freezes at 28.8 degrees Fahrenheit. It
only takes immersion in 50 degree water to develop
hypothermia, so you can imagine that I didn't keep
my hand in the water very long.
the hut, the instructor agreed to let the group
circumnavigate the island on foot together. We got
to see lots of active cracks up close on our little
hike. At one point, we found a hole in the ice that
seals use to come up for air. The hole was starting
to slush over, so the instructor went over and started
telling us about some of the behaviors or seals.
While he was talking, a seal surfaced and loudly
grunted at us. The instructor was so surprised that
he nearly peed his pants! We all flocked around
the hole, hoping to catch a picture of the seal,
but it had decided to go somewhere else. Someone
in the group commented that we looked like paparazzi,
I'd have to agree.
our little outing, we had to learn a little more
about sea ice. We shoveled down through about 6
or 7 feet of snow to reach the actual layer of sea
ice. Using a hand auger, we drilled to find the
depth of the ice (9 feet or so!). Everyone that
needs to know the depth of the ice must use this
method. Lots of people have to do this, we drive
vehicles and land planes here all the time.
a reminder: sea ice is the seasonal ice that will
break up within the next few weeks. Willy Field
is on the Ross Ice Shelf, a permanent layer of ice
that has a depth of about 200 or 300 feet. I tasted
a little bit of the sea ice, very salty! After we
finished this lesson, we had covered the essentials
of sea ice, but we still had some time left before
we had to be back. So, in our extra time, the instructor
decided to let us go to the ice caves! I think I'll
wait until next time to report on the caves. See
the Sea Ice School pictures.
night, after dinner, I walked up Observation Hill.
One of the really handy things about having the
sun always above the horizon, is that you can get
out and do things at any time of day. Of course,
that also makes it hard to manage a full night's
hike up was steep, but not too long. We waited for
nice weather to climb up, sunny and not too windy.
The wind can be a real problem on top of the hill,
very strong. In fact, Observation Hill blocks McMurdo
from the worst of the winds. Once on top, you can
see that Observation Hill (as you can probably guess
from the name) has a great view. It is the highest
point directly by McMurdo.
the top, you can see several mountain ranges on
the Antarctic mainland, the sea ice runway, a top
view of McMurdo, Castle Rock, Mount Erebus, Willy
Field, and Herbie Alley. Herbie Alley is where all
the worst storms come from (the south), the hurricane
force blizzards. Eun and I had a snowball fight,
fun! The most fun was going down the hill though.
I ran and slid the whole way down. It was a mixture
of snow and volcanic rock so it took a fair deal
of concentration to keep from falling. But it was
fun enough sliding down that I plan to do it again
from the steep ascent.
woke up yesterday and it was sunny. Finally! The
weather has been so unseasonable; cloudy and snowy.
The folks who know say that it's sunny and beautiful
every day at this time of year, with maybe a storm
once every couple of weeks. It's getting to the
point where there are rivers of muddy water flowing
everywhere in town. Elmer and I, in appreciation
of the weather, decided to hike the Castle Rock
only allow people to go hiking after they have attended
a safety lecture, and then only on the designated
routes. Castle Rock is the longest path they offer,
7 miles round trip. After getting a hearty meal
at the galley, we went to the Firehouse to get clearance
to leave. In order to get clearance, the weather
must be condition 3 and predicted to remain so for
the duration of the hike. We were issued a handheld
radio (in case there was an emergency) and told
them we would have to be back and check in within
6 hours. They are very strict about holding to the
return time. If people are even 5 or 10 minutes
late, they send out rescue crews! Better safe than
and I then headed off to find the trail head; we
had an unlucky start and we walked around for about
an extra mile trying to find it. It was well worth
it. Wow, what a great trail. It was a higher elevation
than town so we had fantastic views. The clouds
were beautiful for the first half of the hike. It
was primarily clear with wisps of clouds dotting
here and there. It was quite windy even though the
temperature itself wasn't too cold. The trail itself
was mainly through the snow. Occasionally, we would
cross patches of gravelly volcanic rock.
most difficult part for me was the portion where
we had to walk uphill, into the wind, on pure ice.
I was convinced I was going to loose some teeth
from slipping and falling before this trip was over.
Along the trail, they have placed 2 emergency shelters.
These are called "apples" or "tomatoes". The bigger
versions of these are called zucchinis. Inside of
these shelters, they keep sleeping bags, emergency
dehydrated food, and a stove (vitally important
in emergency situations for melting snow into water).
At the second shelter, Elmer and I stopped for a
water and M&M's break. Yum yum. I was used to seeing
Castle Rock from afar where it really doesn't seem
that big or imposing. It is rather confusing here
with perspective because the air is so clear that
the visibility is much greater than usual, plus,
almost everything is white anyway. As we started
closing in on Castle Rock, I realized how big the
rock actually is. It's 413 meters high (1239 feet)!
I'm not sure about this, but I think Castle Rock
was formed because it was a vent for Mount Erebus.
It would let the gases and lava leak out of the
mountain which kept the mountain from erupting.
walked right up to the base of the rock, but couldn't
stay there long because the wind was really fierce
and I was getting quite cold in the shade. On the
hike back, I noticed how there is a total lack of
smell here. Talk about sensory deprivation! Hardly
anything to smell, see, or hear. Being without scents
really makes the sense of smell acute when you return
to the proximity of humanity (ie, even the smallest
odors stank when we returned to town). After checking
back in with the Firehouse, Elmer and I went and
ate a BIG dinner. Pictures
from the hike.
today!!! All of McMurdo postponed Thanksgiving from
Thursday to Saturday. This was so most people could
get the weekend off (a lot of people get every Sunday
free). However, quite a few people had to keep working,
some operations just can't stop whether it's a holiday
or not! Most of the scientists worked today, myself
included. We don't usually take any days off (boo-hoo).
But, after working a shorter day out at Willy Field,
I returned to McMurdo to eatthe Thanksgiving feast
that had been prepared.
setup in the galley was a little different than
usual, everybody had to sign up for certain times
to eat. This was so it wouldn't get too crowded
at any given time and there would be plenty of food
to go around. Everything there was nicely decorated
and there was an incredible (and delicious) selection
of food. People were in a pretty good mood, especially
considering that everyone was away from their families.
I myself felt a little glum, my first Thanksgiving
away from home.
To produce the quality of food that they do for
the feast, it takes a lot of extra time. Our cook
staff already works full-time, so the base relies
heavily on the help of volunteers. Helpers worked
the equivalent of 72 kitchen shifts to prepare for
wonder how much food is necessary for 880 people?
of meat: turkey-1,300, ham-150, Antarctic cod-200,
Gallons of gravy: 20
Desserts: pies-150, pecan tarts-500
Number of rolls: 3,000
Pans of stuffing: 24
Pounds of fresh fruit: 120
Pounds of fried onions: 24
Pounds of canned cranberry sauce: 200
Pounds of cheese: 60
to say, there were leftovers. I hope you all had
a great Thanksgiving!
A few pictures.
I certainly slept well the night after snow school.
All that hard work made me want to eat and sleep
a lot. One thing that was truly remarkable about
spending the night outdoors here was how quiet it
was. No people noises, no city noises, and even
no animal noises. When the wind died down, there
was nothing at all.
that "Happy Camper" snow school is over, my life
is starting to form a more regular schedule. I work
every day, usually from the time I catch the shuttle
in the morning (either 7:30 or 8:15) to the evening
shuttle at 5:30. "Work" means driving in a van from
the main McMurdo Station where we live, to Williams
"Willie" Field, which is 8 miles away. Sometimes
I work a little less, this is usually if I have
some meeting or appointment I need to go to.
may wonder what is actually going on in the lab
from day to day. Well, we have most (if not all)
of the parts built already. So what still needs
to be done?
first thing we do as we receive the different parts
is test all these parts to see that nothing was
broken during shipping. There is a whole lot of
delicate instrumentation and it wouldn't take too
much to damage it. Something to keep in mind is
that while it may be easy to tell when something
is broken, it is much more difficult to tell how
it is broken and what should be done to fix it.
we make sure these parts of the experiment are working,
we have to see just how well they are working. In
other words, we have measure the "sensitivity" of
our experiment. The TopHat experiment must be extremely
sensitive to get good quality data and make new
what we're working on right now is the electronics
of the project. Sometimes as we're testing the equipment,
we make mistakes and things get broken. Fixing these
mistakes is just part of the job, EVERYBODY does
things wrong from time to time.
we have individually checked out all the separate
parts to the experiment, we must assemble these
pieces and make sure the entire experiment works
as expected. When it all works, we go through the
sensitivity measurements a few more times to make
sure we have the best measurements possible. We
are in the process of fine tuning all of our equipment
so it is in its best working condition. This process
will keep us busy until the flight takes place!
equipment and working people.
14 and 15:
may notice that the journal covers two days. That's
because I went to a survival course called Snowcraft
I (aka Happy Camper School)! It was an adventure.
Before reading about what happened, please read
the description of the three
categories of weather.
course started at 9:00 in the morning when the class
had to convene at the Field Safety Training Program
building. The instructors started out by telling
us about all the hazards of a cold weather environment,
mainly frostbite and hypothermia. After explaining
how to avoid and treat these conditions, they went
on to describe other dangers of the Antarctic like
ice crevasses, dehydration, and sunburn.
this was all interesting so far, but not jump-up-and-down
exciting. After we finished with this, we put on
our ECW gear and all piled into a Delta (a vehicle
with REALLY big wheels). We drove out onto the Ross
Ice Shelf and paused for lunch before the real work
got started. During lunch, we learned how to use
and take care of camping stoves. Then we were all
issued sleeping bags and went to build various types
of shelters so we would have somewhere to sleep
was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, and not much wind.
Definitely a condition 3 day. We started by building
the Scott tents. These tents were massive and heavy,
but looked to be warm and able to take strong winds.
Then we moved on to building a snow brick wall.
We did this to make a barrier from the wind (although
it would make just a good of a barrier for a snowball
fight) Inside the wall, we put up expedition tents.
These are the type of tents you would stay in if
you were going hiking. They were neither as warm
nor as resistant to the wind as the Scott tents,
but they were far and away much lighter, making
them much easier to transport.
building that, we started to make a Quinzhee. To
make the Quinzhee, we first piled all our gear in
a big heap and covered it with a big tarp. Then
we shoveled snow until the entire heap was covered
with between 2 and 3 feet of snow. After letting
this settle for a couple of hours, we dug a hole
underground that opened into the bottom of the heap
(it was underground to keep the wind from getting
in). We pulled out all of the gear from the center
of the snow heap through this hole and voila, we
had a shelter! It was a whole lot of work to make
the Quinzhee, but it looked so cool!
last type of shelter we made was a trench. It was
made by digging a hole in the ground and then covering
the the hole with snow bricks. If you try to build
any of these shelters on your own, remember to make
the entrance face away from the wind! After helping
us build these shelters, the instructors left us
to fend for ourselves for the entire night!
couldn't decide what shelter to stay in, but after
a tiring evening of sledding, I decided on the Quinzhee.
With the sun shining, I wormed my way into my abode
and settled in for the night. I only woke up a couple
of times during the night from the cold. After adding
many layers of clothes and eating a snickers bar
for emergency heat, I was able to sleep comfortably
for the rest of the night. In fact, I slept so well
that I didn't hear either my alarm or the condition
1 storm blow in! It was very dramatic.
the tents in whiteout conditions was very exciting.
After cleaning up after ourselves, the instructors
took us to the next part of the survival school
(everything was pretty easy after spending the night
outside except staying awake). For the remainder
of the day, we learned how to communicate with radios
and how to be safe around helicopters. I had such
an exciting time at Happy Camper School. I wish
I could do it again! There
are pictures to go along with my story.
it was hard getting up this morning! I went to take
a nice relaxing shower only to discover I am only
allowed 3, 2 minute showers per week. This is rather
tricky (as you may well imagine).
do we have to do this, you ask? Well, for a few
different reasons. Since it is so cold here, there
is no unfrozen fresh water. At McMurdo, they must
get all their water by taking the salt out of the
ocean water. This is a rather expensive and difficult
way to get usable water. In addition, Antarctica
is protected by international treaty. This treaty
declares that the continent must be kept pristine
(free of the wear and tear of humans) and used only
for scientific purposes. So by reducing the amount
of water used, we reduce the impact of humans on
here is actually required to attend a waste management
class. In this class, I learned that not only is
water conserved, but just about everything else
too! All the trash I produce must be sorted. Most
people have probably heard of recycling their cans
and glass, but here we recycle shampoo bottles,
saran wrap, plastic, etc. You name it, we recycle
it. About 70% of Antarctic waste is recycled, the
remaining portion is shipped back to the United
States for disposal. Antarctica has one of the best
recycling systems in the whole world. Isn't that
after my painfully short shower (I had to keep reminding
myself, "It's for a good cause!"), I got to take
my first trip out to my lab. Now, I usually spend
my evenings and sleep in McMurdo, but I work at
a remote field camp named William's Field (we call
it Willy Field for short). This means that I must
shuttle back and forth every day about 8 miles each
way. 8 miles may not seem like a long distance,
but in Antarctica, it is almost isolated. If it
wasn't for the snow plows clearing the way several
times a day, there would be no road at all!
Field is situated on the Ross Ice Shelf. When it
was first built(about 8 years ago), all the buildings
were on the flat ground. Now, because of snow accumulating,
the buildings are almost completely below ground
level. They must be plowed out every day to remain
accessible. My lab is a weather-tight barn of sorts.
There is also an outhouse and a galley (kitchen).
The outhouse is unheated! Not very pleasant. The
galley is in a type of building called a Jamesway.
There are a bunch of these here left over from the
Korean war. If you have ever seen the TV show "MASH",
it is the same sort of structure they use when performing
surgery. I learned how to ride a snowmobile today!
Do any of you know how to drive a snowmobile? It
sounds fun, no? Today's
here! Tired and out of it, but still here. It wasn't
too cold when we first got here, mid 20's Fahrenheit.
I actually felt quite hot decked out in all my ECW
gear. One item I felt was absolutely necessary were
the sunglasses. It was very bright even with a fairly
solid cloud cover. After exiting the plane, we were
quickly bustled onto a Terra Bus (these buses look
like they are equipped to handle ANY weather). Looking
around from the window of the bus, I realized that
we had landed on the sea ice! So the only thing
between me and the cold cold ocean was a layer of
seasonal ice. They have people working all the time
to make sure this is safe. The Terra Bus then drove
us to McMurdo. There was a brief orientation and
then we were free to settle in. I went to my check
out my room. It is rather like a dorm room with
2 notable exceptions: much quieter and in much better
condition. They try to keep things in good condition
here for safety reasons and for conservation reasons.
There is room for one other person in the room.
There is one window in the room. I expected there
to a blackout curtain because it is eternal daylight.
However, the curtain just makes the room a dimmed
blue. Well, now that it's dark in the room, I think
I will get that much needed rest. Goodnight! Look
at these pictures.
the day! I had to be at the Clothing Distribution
Center by 6:00 AM to sort my clothes and go through
the final clearances. Everybody is required to wear
a certain portion of their ECW gear on the flight.
This was very hot as it is summer in New Zealand
right now. We had to go through several obstacles
including being weighed and sniffed by narcotic
dogs. Then we had to watch a brief safety video.
The weather was reported to be good on the ice so
we all loaded onto a bus to the airstrip. No commercial
airlines make this trip so we were going to be transported
by the Air Force. We all loaded on to a C-141. Women
are seated in the front of the plane due to primitive
bathroom conditions. It's easiest to see what's
going on if you look at the pictures, but I will
describe a little further. We sat on canvas seats
and leaned against a hammock-like mesh. Because
the engines were so noisy, we all had to wear earplugs.
They supplied us with a bag lunch, but it was GROSS.
After about a 5 or 5.5 hour flight, we landed in
McMurdo. Yippee! Here
are the day's pictures.
last left you in Christchurch, New Zealand. After
getting a satisfying, but short night's sleep, I had
the morning free. A note to travelers: make sure your
shampoo and other gooey toiletries are well separated
from your clothes (I had a minor fiasco). Christchurch
is known as the city of gardens so I decided to walk
to the Botanical Gardens in my spare time. It was
very lovely there and I tried to saturate my senses
with greenery to help with the coming months. I had
to report to the Clothing Distribution Center at 2:00
PM to be issued my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear.
They gave everybody 2 orange bags full of gear and
had us try it on to make sure it fit. People got different
clothing depending on their job. I was issued 6 pairs
of heavy mittens! For dinner, I had a delicious meal
of seafood. It is very fresh on this island country.
Tomorrow the flight is scheduled to go down to McMurdo,
hope it's not delayed due to bad weather! Today's
was a rainy day in Chicago, the kind that makes
you wish you were snuggled up inside. Unfortunately,
I still had lots to do before I started my travels.
After much packing and taking apart my room, I left
for the airport around 1:00 PM. After much sitting
around and waiting for the flight, I discovered
that the plane was delayed. Finally though, we got
on our way and the pilot went a little faster than
usual. We maintained a speed of Mach .8. Mach .8
means that our speed was .8 times the speed of sound.
We landed in Los Angeles and had a relatively small
layover, 2 or 3 hours. Then came the long flight,
the one to Auckland, New Zealand. We boarded the
plane and man-o-man, was the plane big! I was seated
in row 50 out of probably 60 rows. There were 10
seats in each row, plus there was an upper level
to the plane! I was amazed that the plane was even
able to get off the ground. The flight took around
12.5 hours, what a drain! It was hard to sleep so
I ended up staying awake most of the night. I was
able to read an entire book. Since I couldn't sleep,
I got to see the most magnificent sunrise. A few
interesting facts about the flight: average speed
= 600 mph, flight headwind = 0-200 mph, cruising
altitude = 6 miles. We crossed the International
Date Line a few hours before we reached our destination.
I am 18 hours ahead of you! Talk about jet lag.
I reached Auckland in one piece and settled in for
a 5.5 hour layover after I went through customs.
It was spring there so it smelled very fragrant
and fresh. Very nice after the recycled plane air.
This 5 hour layover was probably the most difficult
part of my trip. I was tired, disoriented, and still
had lots of traveling in front of me. The next leg
of my travels was from Auckland on the north island
to Christchurch on the south island of New Zealand.
That was a really beautiful flight. And only 2 hours!
Once in Christchurch, I met up with another member
of TopHat. He hadn't been able to get to McMurdo
for 6 days because of bad weather at the base. After
a little orientation in the clothing distribution
center, I was finally able to go to my hotel. Phewf!
A small note: I went directly from November 6 to
November 8 when I crossed the Date Line, so I never
had a November 7! Please
go look at the pictures from the first chunk of
is only a couple of days till I leave so I am busy
busy busy. Before anybody is allowed to go to Antarctica,
they must take a number of tests to make sure they
are physically qualified. This is important because
the medical services on the ice are much less than
a normal hospital and the continent is very isolated
so they must be strict about the health of people
working there to prevent emergencies. To get physical
qualification, I had to have a full physical exam,
several blood tests, a dental exam, and my wisdom
teeth removed! I was lucky, because I'm so young,
I did not have to take most of the tests. All and
all, it wasn't so bad except for having my wisdom
teeth out. Once you are physically qualified, you
can receive your tickets. Although I've been PQ'ed
for a while now, I didn't receive my plane tickets
until yesterday! I was getting a little nervous
about whether I'd receive them on time. I am now
doing last minute errands and starting the packing
process. In addition to the difficulty of having
to pack for 3 months, I also have a weight limit
of 35 pounds for all my belongings! That will be
a challenge. Hopefully, the next time you will hear
from me will be in Antarctica!