Tag Archives: cycling antarctica

Tourist Activities

When I’m not working as a Communications Operator down here in McMurdo, I like to pretend like I’m a tourist, seeing the sights and doing tourist things…


On the way to Cape Evans a couple weeks ago we spied 6 little emperor penguins in the distance by Big Razorback Island…

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The curious little dudes waddled their way over to us over the course of about 15 minutes…

Stopping less than 10 feet away to check us out

While we did the same back
Two performed a magical and mesmerizing dance as we watched on.  That’s me in the red coat in front of them.

The sea ice is getting warmer, cracks are getting bigger, and seals are lounging about in greater and greater numbers

And having babies!  Mama and a few day old pup by the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base.

And the placenta remnants from the event!  Skuas have eaten most of it at this point…

Dog skeleton inside the Cape Evans hut.  The opposite of wildlife – domesticated death.


Iconic Cape Evans Hut shot

Even the explorers of the Heroic Age liked to be tour about in their free time!

And only the best for those boys – Brooks Saddles, since 1866

Authentic hundred+ year old toothbrush


Always wondered what it’s like to work in Antarctica?  Come fly on an original 1940’s Basler to the Transantarctic Mountains.  Here, we’ll land on the Lennox King glacier at the “historic” CTAM USAP science support camp.  You’ll assist in digging out 55 gallon fuel drums from a year’s worth of blowing snow with real-life fuelies in smelly Carhartts!  

Skidoo tracks

Fuelie in Carhartts taking a walk



Running the Turkey Trot – a Thanksgiving tradition in McMurdo


The more color and ruffles the faster you run, say the locals!

Action selfie!  Riding one of our new Surly Pugsleys to Willy Field one early morning


Senior photo on the sea ice, Mt. Erebus in the background

Jumping shot at CTAM

Steezin’ on the sea ice by Cape Evans

Being a tourist is great.

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Ice to Ice

In addition to making a lot of fried egg sandwiches…

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This is what I did for the better part of last summer:


The Matanuska Glacier is incredible.  When I wasn’t busy working for MICA Guides, I got a chance to explore and climb on my own as much as my tired self would allow, though it was never enough to satiate.  I don’t think it ever could be.  Prior to this summer I had only visited this 26 mile-long beauty once, more than a decade ago – a standard story for us Anchorageites who live only two hours away.  I had, however, driven by many a time and admired the glacier and her valley almost as one would art – a drive-through scene that was incredible to look at, but I had other places to go.  To get to “know” a tiny part of this dynamic and ever-changing white beast was humbling.  The changes from morning to afternoon and month to month were magical to see and are impossible to capture in photographs.  Here are some views that hopefully do some justice…

View up valley from Lion’s Head.  All of the following photos were taken down valley, to the right this frame. 

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Rocks are an integral part of all glaciers and the amount of them on the terminal part of the Matanuska is huge.  To see the interplay between the ice and rock on a day to day basis is so cool. 

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Ice climbing is rad…

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Exploring up glacier on a sunny day was dreamy.  

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I heart Matanuska Glacier!!!

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I’m now back at McMurdo Station, Antarctica now for my third austral summer season.  More ice!  In between here and there Tex and I went on a post-work AK road trip that included McCarthy/ Kennicott.  The Root and Kennicott glaciers are similar in many ways to the Matanuska, but hugely different at the same time.  WOW!

The terminal moraine of the Kennicott and Root glaciers is crazy.  That is all rock-covered ice.

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The rocks on the way to the glacier were so spectacular we had to force ourselves not to stop every couple minutes to pick one up and show and tell it!

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Evening hike along the Kennicott moraine

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A gorgeous day on the Root

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And that brings me to the other end of the world where I write this now in the middle of the starless night.


The sun has set for the last time until February 21st, 2016.  Before that happened we had some spectacular mid-night skies and I was lucky enough to be working night shift and awake to see them, though sometimes only from my office window…

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Back home in crazy McMurdo!  Scenes from town, sea ice and ice shelf…

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Ice Weather

Roof of building 165 where I work.  Weather instruments, antennae, satellites and great viewsP1080117 P1080113 P1080109 P1080107 P1080100 P1080097

Austen, an awesome weather observer, let me tag along and launch one of the twice-daily weather balloons – so cool!

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One day…

This was such a good day: got off of work, rounded up a couple bikes and headed to the Happy Camper site to check out the scene for future fun camping trips through the recreation department.  This igloo provided a great respite from the cold winds blowing from the northwest.  Rode back to town and made it back with just enough time to grab a quick bite and load into a van to drive the 15 miles out to the crash site of “Pegasus” The Flying Horse.  Story here: http://www.radiocom.net/vx6/connie.htm.  Puffy pin-up pics the theme of the day…


Inside an igloo looking out


Warming up


Closing the door when we left


When anyone departs from established road they have to check out with MacOps – that’s where I work – to give a travel plan and an estimated return time so that they are being tracked just in case something happens! This is me extending our return time back to the main road.




Outhouses by the igloo/ campsite


Puffy pin-up #1 – Dylan










Bikes and flat white


Pegasus plane. The winds would have buried this long ago if it weren’t for people digging it out annually. There had just been a crew out the day before digging and the body of the plane was barely visible from less than 24 hours of wind.


Great photo ops


Tail grafittie #1


Tail grafitti #2






Side view – Mt. Erebus peeking out behind the buried fuselage


We were like a bunch of kids at recess running all over the plane, sliding down the sides, crawling underneath it and, staying to tradition, scratching our names into the plane along with the hundreds of others who have visited this site over the years.


Puffy pin-up #2 – Lucas


Puffy pin-up #3


Puffy pin-up #4 – me!


Puffy pin-up # 5


Puffy pin-up #6


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The Pressure Ridges

Pressure Ridge:
A comparatively rectilinear conglomeration of ice fragments formed by pressure at the contact line between icefloes, usually along earlier existing cracks and leads or at the boundary between ice floes of different age. In this case, isostatically unbalanced hummocks usually form on the older ice surface. Ice ridges can also form as a result of direct fracturing of ice fields of thick and even first-year and multiyear ice at very strong pressures. The underwater portion of a ridge is termed an ice keel.

For the last two seasons down here I’ve volunteered to take groups out on the sea ice pressure ridges in front of the New Zealand research station, Scott Base.  I went out about once a week for month and it is incredible to see the slow, yet rapid, changes that occur as the days get longer and the temperatures higher.

November 12th

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November 24th

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December 4th

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December 8th

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December 18th

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Cape Evans

One evening, about a month ago, I rode out in a Delta to the historic hut at Cape Evans.  We drove north from McMurdo on the sea ice for a slow hour, parked this side of a large crack and continued on by foot.  The half-hour walk from the truck to the hut on the blue sea ice with giant frozen icebergs looming on all sides was impressive; one of the more beautiful spots I’ve ever been on earth.

The history of the hut is here: http://www.nzaht.org/content/library/History_of_Scotts_Cape_Evans_Expedition.pdf.  It looks as if one day the explorers woke up, walked out of the door and just never came back.  Seal blubber stacked to burn, a dead penguin on a table (science experiment??) still fat, looking like it could have been alive only weeks ago, huge stores of food in fading wooden crates and rusting cans, animal skin bedding, woolen clothing, a darkroom, postcards tacked to the walls… frozen in time.





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Willy Field, LDB and the Road Between Here and There

Here are some pics from bike rides the past couple days

Saturday morning I rode out to the ice runway, Willy Field. It’s about a 6.5 mile ride from town to the runway. Dylan is working at the runway galley so I got to go for an amazing bike ride and go see an amazing guy. Awwwwww…


My new cheek-protecting system. Now that I’m 35 I have to start thinking about keeping my skin young and fresh!


Dylan is really good at mopping

This must be one of the prettiest sites for trash bins in the world



A 15 minute ride beyond Willy Field is the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Facility https://scienceroadshow.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/the-long-duration-balloon-project-mcmurdo-station/.
My friend Lisa is the chef here and we had a great chat while she chopped fresh veggies and prepared lunch for the 70 scientists and support staff that work at the site.

P1070425The road back to McMurdo


Yesterday evening, before heading into my night shift at 10pm Dylan and I rode out on the ice shelf a little ways. In McMurdo the dirt roads were wet with melting snow and ice and the in the existing snow the tire tracks mushy and deep. Only a mile and a half away on the ice shelf it was really cold – and really beautiful.






Top of the pass between McMurdo and Scott Base. Our return trip from those little black squares in the distance


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McMurdo Station, Antarctica – Season 2

Back on the Ice. I’m now a (maybe not-so) seasoned veteran and returning here on October 1st, less than 5 weeks ago, to my surprise felt like coming home. I quickly got settled into my dorm room that I would be sharing with Dylan when he arrived in what turned out to be a week, as his flight from Christchurch, New Zealand got delayed day after day due to bad weather. Building 201, room 213: home for the next five months. I got to work rearranging and dismantling furniture, putting up old posters we found in my parents’ basement, unpacking my box of things that I stashed here over the winter and scrounging SKUA, the free stuff exchange, for anything that might make our little room more comfortable. Top find: a big ziploc bag of about 40 crawfish magnets. Our doors, desk and sides of our little fridge are metal – shrimp for days!!!

The friends and acquaintances which made last year amazing are still multiplying in numbers with each new flight that arrives on the continent. I stayed in touch with very few people in between seasons, so each familiar face I see is like an unexpected gift. I’ve hugged so many people in delighted surprise, and excitement for the season to come in the past few weeks. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by these vibrant people and back in this cold, bizarre industrial compound at the end of the earth.

I am working as a “communications operator” this year in MacOps.  That stands for McMurdo Operations.  We communicate via HF radio, VHF radio, Iridium satellite phone and radio phones with the field camps, other international research stations and parties traveling anywhere off the established road system around McMurdo.  It’s a great job, I work with amazing people and I am learning SO much about communications and about all of the field work and science that are going on all over the continent!  Fascinating!

McMurdo itself hasn’t changed a bit. There was more snow than last year when I arrived and that’s about it. We had weeks of storms, wind, poor visibility and limited travel on and off the continent and even regionally. I started working out in the gym, something I normally loathe, as outdoor recreation was more combative than recreational during those few weeks. Happily, the sun started shining again last week and every time I look out of the window or look up from the volcanic fine-sprinkled icy road I’m walking on, I am blasted with the beauty of where I am. The spring equinox was September 23rd and the sun won’t set again until February 20th, 2015 in McMurdo.

Here are some pictures of the first five weeks of the 2014 – 2015 summer season…

Plane ride from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo. My first time on a C-17!





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My first day on the job!Sage 1

Scenes around and above McMurdo

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Last year’s waste, waiting to be loaded on the resupply vessel in February.



Ice pier being rebuilt after a storm destroyed last year’s. In February, after the ice breaker comes, all that flat white will be open water




McMurdo and Ob Hill. Scott Base (New Zealand) is on the other side of the pass

Golf balls




Building 165 where I work in MacOps!



I love this building


Green buildings at Scott Base – New Zealand’s research station a couple miles down the road


My dorm 

View from our room

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3am inside


The galley


The Coffee House

Dylan and I have been playing scrabble


Scrabble buffs – notice anything that doesn’t belong?

Biking on the ice road to the ice runway




At the ice shelf transition early last week at the tail-end of our bad weather

My head out and about






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Pretty things and some beef

These are photos from over the past month or so – things look a bit different now, as with the warmer weather (up to 32 today!) and massive amounts of daylight (the sun BLAZES into my room at 2:00 a.m.) things are rapidly melting and shifting, but they give a good feel of the place…

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View from Ob(servation) Hill a short walk from town. There are lots of crosses on hills here from the early 1900s.
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Looking towards Scott Base and THE Pressure Ridges – seems not right to capitalize them, but they are THE only ones we talk about on the regular here.
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Ice Runway a couple miles from town. That’s where I used to recreate almost daily – now it’s closed for the season in anticipation of the ice melting and giving way to open ocean and… PENGUINS! The new runway is a 14 mile trek on the permanent ice shelf on an often very squishy ice road – yesterday they banned light vehicles and only tracked vehicles and these jobbers – called Deltas – could drive out there. Will snap a more impressive shot of these monsters soon.
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Deltas and dirty melting snow
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Town from above. In a few short weeks we have lost all of the snow on the streets and it is nice and brown and dusty now. It snowed yesterday for a bit, but the sun came out today and melted the dusting away from the dust.
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View back towards Mt. Erebus – highly active volcano with a near constant plume of smoke billowing out of it.
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Science/ weather (?) equipment on the way down from Ob Hill
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Back at sea level, a gorgeous night for a midnight ski (not the greatest skate ski conditions however – see tire tracks).
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So pretty
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My head, Ob Hill and McMurdo in the background
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The next night, around midnight once again, I rode my bike out to the ice runway where I popped into the runway galley to say hi to a friend cooking up the midnight meal for the night shifters (we call them MidRats). The light was amazing.
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Gloves left in the runway restrooms, which are now 14 miles away, along with the galley, firehouse, control towers and all the other portable buildings on skis that support this little runway operation connecting us to the real world and scientists to their camps.
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I co-guided a Pressure Ridge tour
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As evidenced by ice axe
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Seals – they always look dead. They’ll flap their little flippers sometimes, but mostly they just look dead. We had to detour around three of these dudes just off the path this night. Later this week I did actually see a seal propelling itself across the ice for the first time – impressive how fast those little flippers made all that warm blubber move!

Speaking of fat and meat and beef, after writing that last blog post I got to thinking about our beef situation. The next day I started taking pictures of every beef dish at every meal I attended in the galley. I’m still snapping away, always strapped with my camera during meal times. People don’t get why I’m taking pictures of the food and get a little weirded out about it. If they ask why I’m taking pictures of the food, I let them know I’m really only taking pictures of the beef, in all its many forms. Here are just a few of what will soon be hundreds. I have no idea what to do with all of these photos…
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Prime rib
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“Italian Style Beef Ribs!”
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All beef franks

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