Thursday, December 9, 2010

I am in Antarctica!!!!!!!!!

We’ll see if I can get into a regular blogging schedule, but for now here is quick summary:
I am in Antarctica!!!!!!!!!

We are 20 hours ahead of MST -- so for me it is the next day, but four hours behind. (GMT +12 for those of you who are counting).
Arrived in New Zealand on December 1st. Remained there until December 6th poking around Christchurch and waiting for the weather to clear so that flights South could resume. Arrived at McMurdo Station on December 6th. Went right to work, touring the sites and helping with tests. Didn’t get to unpack until about 9pm.
Having a busy week and adjusting to the environment, culture, work pace, food, etc.
Sharing a room with a friendly janitor from Wyoming. This is somewhat lucky as one of our team members who arrived in October is stuck in a 5-person ‘temporary’ room. But not that lucky as another colleague has had a double all to himself since the day he landed.
Have only showered twice since arriving.
Have been too hot or too cold much of the time, though I am starting to get used to it (and I’m learning when to wear what).
Spent one day working on a ridge with no shelter, 40 mph winds, and temperatures around -4 C with a wind chill somewhere around -19. It was cold, but Big Red (the program issued extreme cold weather parka) kept me comfortable so long as I had my back to the wind.
Spent another day mostly in the office (boo!).
Today’s highlight: took a midnight hike -- since it is 24/7 daytime and tonight was clear-skies with almost no wind, I took late night hike out to Hut Point (a short hike). Saw a couple seals, watched a C-130 take off and looked over the original hut Scott built here in 1902. It is a protected historic site so we cannot go in or tamper with it. The oddest oddity there is a bundle of old ropes and canvas topped by the desiccated corpse of seal. I have no idea what the story of this detritus heap might be, but there is a chance it is from the original expedition (a 100 year old seal carcass -- yay).
3 interesting things:
  1. Up until 1972, the station’s power came from a 50’s era nuclear power plant. It was removed in the early 70’s due to a requirement in the Antarctic treaty that allows any signatory to inspect equipment on the continent. Not wanting to share proliferation technology, they removed it.
  2. Water + volcanic fines + cold = concrete. Watched an excavator trying to trench through fines (loose volcanic rock). It was making good progress when it hit a patch where water had penetrated forming ice-crete. The excavator only managed to chip away a couple inches over the course of an hour. He finally gave up -- they will need heavier equipment to break through the ice layer.
  3. Burger night -- it’s a big deal here. People line up 30-40 minutes early, standing outside (freezing) to get their $3 burger at Gallagher’s Bar.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff, Mark! I'm dying to know two things:
    1. Did you get any pics of the Scott hut?
    2. And, what is your "day" job anyway that puts you in Antarctica?
    Keep these coming, yeah.