Tag Archives: industrial wasteland mcmurdo

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:

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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.

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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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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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Penguin!
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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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Around Town

Some scenes from town and around…

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Beginning of a sunset walk a couple weeks ago outside building 155, the blue building on the right. This is the hub of McMurdo. It houses the cafeteria, (“galley”), offices, barber shop, retail store, dorm rooms, craft room, computer lab, and more. The bar, Gallagher’s, where we have weekly watermelon-smashing-with-sledgehammer parties, is the brown building. From the outside, most buildings just look like brown squares. No signage indicates what’s inside. Open the door, and you enter a bar with 50+ people rocking out and drinking Kiwi beers and whiskey! Or a gym with treadmills and stationary bikes whirring! It’s very disorienting at first.

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Waste is big here. We sort everything, we recycle or reuse everything, and the bins are really colorful.

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Waste sorting area at the end of the hall in my dorm

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SKUA – a scavenging bird that dive-bombs people walking from the cafeteria to the dorms with plates of food – I just heard an account of bird dive-bombing a triple saran-wrapped plate and snapping a sausage right out of the mix! So Skua is also the name of where one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure. In all the dorms there are Skua bins. These are pics of Skua Central – the free Salvation Army or Goodwill of Mcmurdo. I have scored so much from Skua. 2 sweaters, a pair of alpaca socks, white Dickies pants, many pairs of glove liners, a letter jacket for a friend, expedition weight Patagonia long johns, a Patagonia long-sleeve top, baseball hat, numerous mugs, fabric, saw stamp, the same shampoo I use… it’s great. I check the bin in my dorm daily and score 50% of the time. Love Skua.

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In the bathroom at the end of the hall on the first floor of my dorm. Biowaste bucket and Dwell magazine?! I love this place!

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My dorm hallway and bags of linens outside people’s doors

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Sunset scenes

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Water line

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Pretty snow and reflecting sun on the side of the helo operations building

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My awesome fire fighter buddies daisy chaining beer and booze into one of the bars, Southern, the day before we opened a couple weeks ago. The small brown building in the background is the Gerbil Gym, where all the cardio machines are, the two large brown buildings past that are dorms.

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My insulated Carhartt overalls and the brown carpet that covers most of the floors on station.

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My beeper.

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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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