Jay (brian1789) wrote,


McMurdo is a unique place... there are similarities with Arctic communities I've visited, but it has its own charm and twist. Part frontier (edge of exploration), part small college (with 40-year-old students... bars... no children or spouses in sight... dining hall... etc), and part company town (ASC runs everything on behalf of NSF, minimal labor protections, 56 hour 6-day weeks for staff, hierarchies). No pavement, just snow, ice and black volcanic soil.

It has its own jargon... "Skua" is free thrifting, scavenging, which is time-honored here. "Look at my skua hat!" means they found it abandoned in a dorm bin, not that it looks like the seagull-like bird. "Paper towels" are anything small, bundle-able, not bio- or haz-contaminated, and won't rot if kept dry. So it includes candy wrappers, tissues, old stickers, plastic films, and actual paper towels... seemingly half the waste stream. "Freshies" are any food that was flown in recently, i.e., not frozen in storage for months. We have been out of freshies since early December due to the runway slush and no C-17s.

Two more team members left this morning, just myself and Jackie remain on the continent from our Icebreaker drilling team. Lab space inspection is at 4pm this afternoon, and then bag-drag (moving luggage to Fleet Ops for checking and weighing, more jargon) likely tonight and a flight tomorrow (Friday) to "Cheech" (i.e. CHCH or Christchurch, NZ). Today I'm wrapping up small things in Crary, and may take an afternoon hike if things aren't busy here.

Meanwhile, here are a few more photos from the past week:

On 31 January, a week ago, we broke camp in University Valley and pulled back to McMurdo. Here's one of the pullout helicopters, landing next to a cargo line (on the left).

Spectacular views en route... mountains, carved valleys, glaciers, crevasses... here's a view of volcanic Mt. Erebus, looking across towards Ross Island. An Air New Zealand flight crashed here in 1979.

Flying back into McMurdo, over the Crary Lab and 155, with the peak of Erebus looming in the background. We're essentially situated on the flanks of the volcano, about 20 miles away.

A view down the hall in Crary Phase One (upper level block), where our lab space is allocated. That's my red parka hanging on the immediate right. Posters from past projects decorate the hallways.

Cute sign at the lab entrance. :-)

Two days ago, we were up from 3-4am to do our last education and public outreach to a classroom who could operate our Icebreaker drill remotely. Here's a photo of Margarita being filmed for Discovery Channel Canada, while talking to a classroom in Montreal. It was cold... I took my glove off for just 5 minutes while holding the microphone, and three fingers got frostnipped and are still numbed and tingling.

The view out my dorm room (203B, room 213) out over the ice pier and harbor, with the Royal Society Range in the background over on the mainland. Note the formerly-Russian icebreaker, here to clear the way for annual resupply vessels that will arrive within the next week.

Just before we left for University Valley, we got over a foot of snow... and someone had the idea to make makeshift sleds from trash bags and cardboard. Here's Jackie and Margarita... both having tumbled in the snow.

Our first round of drill software testing... up on the flanks of Obs Hill, drilling until 3am. I don't know if that's Bolek or myself, we were sitting exposed and so were both in our red parkas.
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