Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sea Ice Meets Ice Shelf

And a pressure ridge is born. 

Last weekend I trained to be a pressure ridge tour guide.  It was gorgeous and informative.  Now I can take groups of people out on the sea ice to meander through the pressure ridges and bask in the beauty.  Along a flagged route of course.  This is government endorsed activity after all!

 

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First flag of the route

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Seals relaxing in the sun

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Looking at ice and learning

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More of that… armed with cameras and me, with my back to the camera, armed with a metal probe for testing out cracks and any iffy areas. You’d think everyone in the group would want the poker, right? Wrong. I had to wear a super warm mitten on one hand to hold this stupid thing, and a thin glove on the other to operate my camera. Someone finally asked if he could use the poker and I refused to take it back when he tried to return it. Ha!

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Me and my office mate Katie jumping for pressure ridges!

I’m hoping to take my first group out next week. I’m super excited.

In the meantime, it’s Halloween. Karaoke, horror movies and lots of candy at the bars tonight. A mellow excuse to dress up and eat sweets – tomorrow is a work day! The big party is reserved for Saturday as the majority of the station is off on Sunday. This is the party of the year I am told. When I asked my friend Burke what I should bring to Antarctica, the first thing he said was a Halloween costume. I’m saving that one for Saturday. Tonight I dressed up as “Found” – every item I’m wearing, down to my socks and shoes, has been discarded by someone else and found by me! My counterpart is “Lost” – he also happens to be the awesome photographer, James, who snapped the pics that I’m in. Tonight he was strapped with a map, sandals, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. One person actually guessed what we were! Most everyone else was still confused even after we explained it.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Riding a Bike in Antarctica…

…Sing to the tune of “America” from West Side Story

Today I rode a bike for the first time here!  It was awesome.  It was really windy.  It was cold.  I rode from McMurdo, out on the sea ice to the ice runway – an air runway on the sea ice!  To do most fun things outside of McMurdo here you have to file a trip plan online.  Then go to the fire station and check out and get a radio.  Tell them when you’ll be back.  If you are more than 5 minutes late for check in time, they send out search and rescue. 

 

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On the way out. Super cross-wind. It was around 5 degrees F and -15 F at the time. I was granny gearing it on the flats fighting the wind! Here I get passed by a tracked mobile that probably has some weird name I’m not aware of. Everything has a funny name here, and I’m learning them slowly!

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Planes on the ice runway.

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I imagine that you put heavy stuff on these ski devices and drag them with a vehicle (with a witty name) to where you want to go.

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Bundled up on my bike!

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I am enamored with tire – and track – tracks here. Note them in previous and future posts. They’re so pretty.

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Deep tracks in the snow on the ice with some ground up lava rock gravel for a little color.

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Bike!

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My friend Lena and I went skate skiing out on the same road the day before yesterday. So fun. Afterwards I warmed up with some rock climbing at the indoor rock wall in the gym and unicycle riding! I’m still attached to the wall of the gym where I’ve been learning, but with a lighter touch each time! I’m confident that with another hour or two I’ll be riding with NO HANDS!

Recreating in Antarctica is great.

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The sun is still setting…

I got a new fancy pants camera and it takes amazing pictures, but I cannot figure out how to get them to appear here in a decent size – suggestions would be much appreciated! Click to see them full size. Seriously. Do it! I’m really proud of my new toy and its capabilities.

I haven’t had much opportunity to recreate, but there are some amazing sights to be seen very nearby. Tomorrow I have my first day off – can’t wait to explore. Here are some sunset views from a couple days ago…

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Cable frozen to the ground on the way to Scott’s Hut a short, but very cold and windy 3/4 mile walk from McMurdo

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Snow drift on the hut and ice runway operations on the sea ice in the background

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Cross on a hill beyond the hut

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McMurdo

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En route to Scott Base. Windmills provide the bulk of the electricity used in McMurdo in the summer

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View of Scott Base, Kiwi land, from above. The pressure ridges, my main destination, are the little line you see just beyond the cute little green buildings

The pressure ridges in front of Scott Base, where sea ice meets land. The colors changing as the sun set were dramatic – these were all taken within 3 or 4 minutes of each other. Incredible
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Sun going behind the hills – October 10th, 9:42PM. We’re gaining about 18 minutes of daylight right now, so now, three days later, this is the same view at almost 11PM

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Me – really happy in Big Red on my walk home from sunset spectaclar

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ANTARCTICA

I just arrived in Antarctica yesterday!  I am very fortunate to have been hired as the Beverage Supervisor, feeding our dedicated researchers and their large support staff a healthy amount of booze, for the summer research season (hopefully we’ll actually last the season with this crazy budget crisis!) and I am SO thrilled to be here! My trip to The Ice started on October 1st in Anchorage, Alaska and finally culminated in our 757 landing in an emergency whiteout landing yesterday, the 7th, just before 5 PM.  Due to poor weather conditions we were “stranded” in Christchurch for 4 nights.  It was okay… 
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Bike ride up Dyers Pass – a very unexpected 8 or 9km CLIMB after a huge lunch of lamb korma. Awesome ride and views – sheep, mountains, ocean – New Zealand!!!

I brought my bicycle from home and left it at the United States Anarctic Program (USAP) headquarters in Christchurch for the summer. When I get off The Ice I plan to go for a bicycle tour in New Zealand and beyond, and it was amazing to have with me and explore the area around Christchurch in the days I was there. I rode out a different road every day and each day was a totally different type of ride. Beach, hills, farmland – so beautiful and fun.

Yesterday I left my hotel at 6 AM on my bicycle and rode to USAP headquarters to hopefully finally fly out. After an hour delay our plane took off at 9:52 AM.

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Extreme cold weather gear boarding the plane – varying degrees of big-ass boots, insulated Carhartts and Big Red – our unifying piece – we are one.

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Boarding the long awaited flight, flown by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

It was a beautiful 5 hour flight.
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First views of The Ice Continent from the plane

Our first landing approach into Antarctica was a no go – we almost touched down then pulled back up in the very low-lying heavy fog. From our sunny viewpoint way up above the dense fog covering the continent, this intense fog was a surprise. We circled, attempted again and once again aborted the landing due to low visibility. The captain came on the intercom and we were told that we were going to circle and wait for the fog to hopefully lift. At some point were told that we had a 1/2 hour of fuel left as we had been in a holding pattern for over an hour – I later found out that we were burning fuel in case of a crash landing. Our captain came on again and announced that we would attempt once again to land, and if the fog hadn’t broken up at all, we had one more chance – it would be an emergency whiteout landing – he assured us that they had done whiteout landings in simulators and had landed on this airfield many times, so they were confident it would be successful (this simulator bit has become a consistent joke amongst us passengers – not too reassuring). We were instructed to look at the crash position on the cards in the pocket of the seatback in front of us, and to take this position if we heard the announcement “Brace, Brace Brace.” We moved all of our carry-ons to the overhead bins and were instructed to remove our glasses so they didn’t cut our faces if we crashed. We were once again shown the emergency exits and we counted how many rows to the nearest one. I laced up my bunny boots tight, zipped up my big red coat and put my hood up, thinking that might give me a little cushion in crash position. I took inventory to make sure I had my gloves and a hat if we were stranded outside. A friend of mine filled her pockets with oranges so she would have something to eat. I cinched my seatbelt as much as I could and halfway jokingly practiced my crash position to my seat mate’s approval. We had about 45 minutes from the time this announcement was made to the time we attempted our second to last landing, and then our last. After a brief hustle to prepare for landing, amidst much discussion and speculation, the plane was quiet for a long time. We had a lot of time to reflect. We hoped for the best, each of us thinking, feeling, praying in our own ways. Some were calm, some napped, some quietly wept, some clenched the armrests in extreme anxiety. Meanwhile here on the ground they were mobilizing for a mass casualty and belly landing.

In the end we landed perfectly in almost no visibility to a huge round of applause, laughter, huge sighs of relief and hugs.
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Susie and I hug and get a quick happy pic after our successful landing

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More happy people glad to be safe and on The Ice

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Susie and Chad and “Ivan” (that big red vehicle) and the new people mover that we’ll take the 18 miles from the Pegasus Airfield, where we landed, to McMurdo – my new home

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Me with Todd and Chad getting transported with a bunch of other people in big red coats

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I loved the cattle-like experience of this whole affair. All of us wearing red coats, being herded about… here we enter building 155 where we’ll feast in The Galley before orientation and receiving our room assignments and bags

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I took a beautiful walk after dinner. This is Ob Hill in the background.

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Tire tracks in the crispy cold snow

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Junk and a very slowly setting sun around 9:00 PM

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Old tires and Ob Hill

So great to be here. Today I spent much of my day in safety training, getting settled into my dorm room with my new roomie, Susie, and training for my new job. What a crazy world down here. Amazing people and a funny way of doing almost everything. It’s great.

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