Tag Archives: working in antarctica

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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Castle Rock

A two-mile hike from McMurdo, Castle Rock is a beautiful rock outcropping and lovely escape from the hustle bustle of industrial McMurdo.  A seemingly short walk, I’ve always managed to make this into a longer trip with multiple warm-up snack stops at the two warming huts, a.k.a. apples, along the way.

December 6th with Shannon

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YAY!!!

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Mt. Erebus smoking in the background – the southern most active volcano on earth!

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Too much snow still to climb to the top, we were very content to enjoy the amazing views from the side of the rock.

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Wind-scoured ski tracks on the trail looking back towards McMurdo

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Melting snow and ice formations…

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…in dirt

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After-hike beers in the sun on the 201 dorm back porch

January 30th with Hasmin

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On top of the rock!

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Sunny, super windy and chilly!

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Hasmin playing cold

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View to the southeast around 3:00 am. I’m working nights right now so this was the middle of my day off!

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Apple

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Ceiling of an apple

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Hasmin kicking back and enjoying a Black Russian in a plastic penguin cup in an apple.

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Still life in an apple

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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…

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Inside an igloo looking out

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Warming up

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Closing the door when we left

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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.

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Igloo

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Outhouses by the igloo/ campsite

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Puffy pin-up #1 – Dylan

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Walking

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Back

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from

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Igloo

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Bikes and flat white

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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.

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Great photo ops

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Tail grafittie #1

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Tail grafitti #2

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Tail

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Icicles

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

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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.

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Puffy pin-up #2 – Lucas

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Puffy pin-up #3

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Puffy pin-up #4 – me!

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Puffy pin-up # 5

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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…

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

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Dylan is really good at mopping

This must be one of the prettiest sites for trash bins in the world
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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.
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P1070425The road back to McMurdo

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Golf balls
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Building 165 where I work in MacOps!

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I love this building
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Green buildings at Scott Base – New Zealand’s research station a couple miles down the road
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My dorm 
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View from our room
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3am inside

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The galley

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The Coffee House

Dylan and I have been playing scrabble

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Scrabble buffs – notice anything that doesn’t belong?

Biking on the ice road to the ice runway

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Yesterday

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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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Final Hours on The Ice

My flight off The Ice, in a C-130 Hercules, operated by the US Air Force, is scheduled to take off in 5 hours. It has been an incredible first season in Antarctica.

I went camping
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We dressed up
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Here we dine in our little wind shelter. Thor is in the background making his snow cave/trench to sleep in.

I went on a hike up to Castle Rock and snowboarded down
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We had a picnic in an apple on the way
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And got serious on top

Went snowboarding again
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Here’s me standing next to a Delta – big tires

I went snow machining a couple times
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I took a lot more pictures of food
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And of our dated dorm lounges
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I went to South Pole
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I rode a bike around the Pole
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And collected the cleanest air on earth – I’m holding my breath so as not to contaminate it.

I volunteered as a line handler to help bring in and cast of the ice breaker and resupply vessel
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I was the unofficial photographer for the marathon in January
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start of marathon

I saw lots of penguins
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And a dead skua
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Time to suit up in my insulated Carharts, bunny boots and Big Red and fly out of here!

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