Friday, January 30, 2009

Question 16: Are there any interesting events you have in the South Pole? Are there any sports?

About the only outdoor sports I've seen are cross-country skiing and kite skiing which I hadn't seen before I came here. There are also weekly indoor sports like basketball, volleyball, soccer, and dodgeball.

Every year on Christmas Day, there's a Race Around the World, where people run 3 times around a 1 mile path around the South Pole. I've never been here at Christmas, but I've heard it's very fun.

The other interesting events are when the different science groups show off their equipment. The Atmospheric Research Observatory has all kinds of cool-looking equipment, including some bottles which are 50 or 60 years old and which they still use to take air samples. At the end of a tour there, they let you take a sample of "the cleanest air in the world" and take the little bottle home with you!

Question 15: What do you eat and what do you wear?

The food here is REALLY good, but the cooks are busy because they need to make 4 meals every day. Because people are working all the time, they make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and "midrats" (midnight rations). This week we've had burgers, jambalaya, salmon, and "breakfast for dinner". Tonight we had steak and tomorrow night we'll have pizza!

As for what we wear, inside we wear jeans and shirt, just like normal people. We get about 40 pounds of extreme cold weather gear for wearing outside: a heavy winter coat, a lighter winter coat, wind pants, long underwear, fleece jacket and pants, two pair of heavy socks, two pair of glove liners, 3-4 different kinds of gloves, a couple of different caps, goggles and really big boots.

For my 10 minute walk to and from the station, I usually wear the heavy coat, the wind pants and fleece pants, a hat and gloves, and the heavy socks, all over my regular clothes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Question 14: What color do you see the most?

Outside, it's pretty much all white, since we're sitting on top of 2 miles of snow and ice. At lunch we were talking to one of the people who will stay here all winter, and he said the thing he liked most about his week-long vacation was seeing dirt!

However, there are buildings and vehicles outside, so it's not ALL white.

Inside, it looks just like a normal building, with people working at desks, so there are lots of colors.

Busy again

I've been busily working here, getting our software stable and helping debug various problems, so I haven't had much chance to post.

However, Mrs. Lembeck's had a few more questions for me, so I'll answer some of those instead of having to think up something interesting to post here!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Departure lounge

 Mark Krasberg left today, so a bunch of us went to see him off. They were having trouble loading some cargo onto the plane, so we had to wait for 10-15 minutes in the South Pole departure lounge. It was pretty noisy because the plane had to keep its engines running the whole time. Eventually they decided that the plane was ready, so someone led Mark and the other two passengers out to the plane, and he left on his 3 hour flight to McMurdo. He'll stay there tonight, then catch another plane back to Christchurch, NZ tomorrow. In two days, he'll be walking around in shorts!

One more golf pic

Here's Mark Krasberg hitting his golf ball toward the ceremonial South Pole (that's the candy-striped thing in the middle of all the flags)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celebration golf

I got a big piece of software working today, so to celebrate, I went out with Mark and Sven and played golf. South Pole golf is a bit different from regular golf.

 First, the balls are orange so we can find them in the snow, and even then it's not easy. We spent about 10 minutes after we teed off looking for Sven's ball, because it had tunneled into the snow.

Second, holes tend to fill up with snow, so we play to hit objects. In this game, the first "hole" was the ceremonial South Pole, then we played to the geographical pole marker for the second hole, and back to the ceremonial pole for the final hole. (It was COLD so we only played three holes)

I won the first hole, tied with Mark for the second hole, and then choked on the third hole and finished last.

Here's me finishing the second hole at the geographic pole marker.

I'm glad I finally got to play a round here!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More visitors

A couple of days ago, John and I walked out to the drill camp to watch them deploy DOMS. This is the process of putting the sensors into a hole after it's been drilled. It's a pretty involved process, requiring 5-7 people to hook these sensors up every couple of hundred feet on this 2 mile long cable.

 When we were ready to return, the drillers' shift had ended, so we caught a ride back in the van. One the way back, the driver slowed down to look at a group of trucks which had arrived overnight and were parked in the visitors' area about 50 yards away. With a bit of persuasion, he left the packed-down road and drove through the snow to to the visitors' area where we talked to one of the drivers for a bit. These trucks were actually just the support team for a race to the South Pole, dropping off supplies at checkpoints every 25 miles or so along the race route.

 While we were talking, Sven (a driller who wintered over for IceCube in 2007) asked the driver a question. The driver asked him if he was Sven, and said he had something for him. It turned out that this driver had some down time one day, so he skied 4 miles to a nearby camp and talked with the people there. When they found out he was going to the South Pole, they gave him a note to hand to Sven.

It's such a small continent!

(The Norwegian is on the left, Sven is on the right, and I'm in the back)

Bonus question

Maria asked: does it feel like the -20 degree temps in the midwest? If so, how are people able to do activities (play) out in it?

No, it doesn't feel as cold here as it does in the Midwest, for two reasons. First, there's not much wind here in the summer, which would otherwise make if VERY cold. Second, there's no moisture in the air and, as the saying goes, "it's not the cold, it's the humidity".

It's "warm" enough that I COULD walk the 3-4 blocks from my sleeping quarters to the station wearing just my coat (no wind pants), but my legs are kind of cold by the time I get to the station, and if an emergency required me to go outside, I'd be in trouble.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Video from afar

Because we're so far away from everything, we don't get any TV stations here. Because of that, we didn't get to see President Obama's inauguration on Tuesday. We had to wait for an airplane to bring in a DVD with the video.

The DVD finally arrived yesterday and they showed it in the galley last night. I had a BIG smile on my face when Obama took the oath of office, and I really enjoyed his speech. Now to see if he can actually get some good stuff accomplished!

Question 13: Abby wants to know if you miss her and your family?

Yes, I miss my family, but at certain times of the day I can talk to them over the Internet and even call them on the phone.

I miss Abby, too, but I'm looking forward to seeing her and the rest of our family in March, especially if she'll have Girl Scout cookies for me!

Question 12: Do you dog sled?

The first explorers and early researchers used dog sleds to get around, but they've since been banned, along with all other plants and animals which aren't from Antarctica.

People use airplanes, helicopters, snowmobiles, and other machines to get around. I rode out to the drill camp every day in this van

And when we go to and from the airfield in McMurdo, we ride in Ivan the Terra Bus

Question 11: Are there lots of seals?

Not at the South Pole, because seals can't walk this far, and there's nothing here a seal would want.

All along the coast of Antarctica there are lots of seals.

Question 10: Is it fun?

Because we only have a short time here, people usually work a LOT. However, there are fun things to do. Some people go cross-country skiing. There are places to explore outdoors, and many neat things around to look at and take pictures of. There's also a basketball court, a pool table, a foosball table, a couple of TV lounges, lots of books and games, and of course the galley has milk and as many fresh-baked cookies as you want!

There are even people who play golf here!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Question 9: Is there a lot of ice there?

Yes, the ice at the South Pole is over two miles deep! In spite of all that frozen water, the South Pole is one of the driest places on Earth. It's so cold that the water freezes out of the air. That dry air then sucks the moisture out of people, so we need to drink a LOT of water to keep from getting sick, and constantly use lotion on our hands to keep them from drying out.

Question 8: What country are you in?

Antarctica is one of the seven continents. (The North Pole isn't a continent because it's just a big blob of ice without any land underneath.) There is no government on Antarctica, and so I guess it's not really a "country". Instead, it is set aside for scientific research. Many countries have scientific bases on Antarctica. The United States has three bases, one at the South Pole, McMurdo Station near New Zealand, and Palmer Station near Argentina.

Question 7: How cold is it?

It's summertime here, so it's pretty warm. In the middle of summer at the South Pole, it can get up to -15 degrees and in the middle of winter it can get down to -80 degrees. Right now it's between -20 and -30. In just a few weeks, the temperature will be around -50 degrees. When it's that cold, airplanes cannot land here, so anyone who is still at the South Pole station will have to stay here until October. I'm definitely going to leave before then!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Busy day

Today was a busy day.

A co-worker/friend was arriving on an airplane from McMurdo today. The plane was originally scheduled to arrive at 11:30AM.

I went to sleep at around 6AM, and when I woke up at 10AM, I checked the flight arrival time and it had been moved to 11:40, so I went back to sleep. At around 11:10, I woke up and was slowly getting dressed when I heard an airplane. I quickly checked the website and the flight was now due to arrive at 11:20! I quickly finished getting dressed, raced out to the runway (which is between the station/summer camp area and the IceCube lab and drill camp), just as the plane came to a stop.

I greeted my friend and carried his bag in for him ... it takes a while to adjust to the lack of oxygen. A group of IceCube people then went to lunch, where I learned that someone had arrived with a case of the flu, so the doctor was asking anyone who had not yet been vaccinated to come to the clinic.

I got my shot then went back and got a few more hours' sleep, then went to the drill camp for my last night there.

I'm now in the station, and will be working from here for the rest of my stay, though I'm still sleeping in summer camp.

Question 6: Is it cool being there?

Yes! After a week or so, I get used to being here, but every few days I stop and think "I'm at the South Pole!" and it makes me excited.

Question 5: Is it hard to make an igloo?

The igloos aren't hard, but the ice toilets are really difficult to make

Actually, we live in buildings so we don't need to make igloos (except for fun or maybe for extreme emergencies). That picture is from a snow sculpture contest they held here. The winning entry was a sculpture of Calvin and Hobbes

Question 4: Where do you stay?

The main station only has enough room for about 120 people, and right now there are around 250 people, so I'm staying at summer camp.

The buildings there are divided up into 10 little areas, each big enough to fit a bed and a clothes cabinet, with a canvas curtain as the door:

Since there are people working and sleeping at all hours of the day, we have to be quiet when we're in the sleeping areas.

The main station has the galley (where they fix our food -- it's all free), a small greenhouse where you can see living plants (especially important for people who live here all winter), a store/post office which is only open for one or two hours each day, a computer lab, and office and lab space where people do their work.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Question 3: Have you seen any animals or wild animals?

Since it's so cold here and the ice is a couple of miles deep, no plants can grow at the South Pole. We're also far away from the coast, so it's difficult for animals to get here.

McMurdo Station is on the coast, though and there are all kinds of animals there. The most notorious is the skua, a bird which is kind of like a sea gull. In the wild, they're known for stealing food from other birds. At McMurdo, they're known for stealing food from people! Everyone is warned not to carry food in the open, or a skua will swoop down and try to steal it!

Question 2: Have you seen any polar bears looking for food?

No, and I'm glad I haven't because a) I'd be really scared and b) I'd be really lost!

Polar bears only live by the North Pole (and the penguins are very happy about that!)

Some people have talked about moving some polar bears to Antarctica if the North Pole ice continues to melt, but I think it's pretty unlikely that will happen.

Question 1: Have you seen any penguins?

No, but I'd LOVE to. Penguins live by the water, and we're in the middle of the continent, 2000 miles from any water (except for the frozen stuff all over the place). The only chance we have to see penguins is when we're flying here and we stop for the night at McMurdo Station. I've seen seals there, but no penguins. If I'm lucky, I might see some when I stop there on the way back!

Hello to Mrs. Lembeck's class!

My niece Abby and her 3rd grade class sent me a list of questions about the South Pole. Instead of answering them in one big lump, I'll answer a few questions each day over the next few days.

Presidential photo

After getting a amazing eight hours of sleep, I woke up at around 4:30PM and checked my email to discover that there was going to be a photo shoot at 5:45PM to commemorate President Obama's inauguration. I walked over to the station and after a quick supper, headed out to the ceremonial pole with some other IceCubers. If you see the picture, I'm the last person on the right side!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I'm on the third driller shift, so I start work at 10:30, have a lunch break at around 1:30, and get off work at 7:30. That midnight to 1:30 meal is called "midrats", for "midnight rations".

Tonight I got my lunch and sat down at a table with some other IceCube people and 3 skiers. It turned out that the skiers were all descendants of men from Ernest Shackleton's and they had just arrived after retracing Shackleton's steps, though where Shackleton turned around, they obviously kept going! All three men were very friendly and excited about having finished their 65 day journey. They're writing a book and the BBC will also be doing a program on their journey.

You can read more about them at the Shackleton Centenary Expedition website.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In the background you can see the ski camp, with a bunch of skiers waiting the day or two before their plane comes and picks them up. It's almost the end of ski season, and the station will close for the winter in less than a month.

That metal post n the foreground is the geographic South Pole. It's mostly there as a scientific marker. There's also a ceremonial South Pole which is candy-striped with a mirrored ball on top. I'll visit that in a week or two for my hero shots, which is what the obligatory South Pole pictures are called.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

More of my "back yard"


Here's more of what I can see from the back of my building. Spoolhenge is off to the left of the picture. This is basically the South Pole's warehouse district. There are rows and rows of boxes of stuff. If they need something for the winter, they bring it into or close to the station. The rest is left here all winter, and turns into drifts of snow. When summer comes, the winterover residents get out the bulldozers and uncover everything. For this reason, boxes are labelled "Driftable" if it's safe for them to be stored in this area.
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Spoolhenge 2009


This is one of the sights outside the back door of my Jamesway. The big wooden spools are IceCube cable spools, and are as tall as me. I like that they've taken something which would otherwise be thrown away and turned it into a fun landmark.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Drill camp


Here's a picture of the drill camp, where I spend much of my day. You can click on the picture to see a larger version.

Those red buildings are all shipping container sized trailers which were assembled in Madison and then shipped to Antarctica back when the IceCube project first started drilling. I work in the DCC (Drill Control Center) building, which is just to the left of those two big piles of snow on the right side of the picture.

One the left you can see some cable spools. These are the 2.5 km long communications cables which get lowered into the drilled holes. As a cable is deployed into a newly drilled hole, digital neutrino sensors are attached at regular intervals. The deployers only have around 27 hours from the time the drill is pulled out of the hole until the ice has refrozen to the point where they can't lower or raise the cable, so they have to work fairly quickly. The IceCube deployers have become experienced enough at this, so there's almost no risk of that happening. AMANDA, an earlier incarnation of the idea behind IceCube, got one of their strings stuck before it was fully lowered into the hole, rendering hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment useless. A lot of time and energy was spent modelling exactly how holes freeze, to the point where we can watch the drill going down and coming back up, and accurately forecast the "lifetime" of the hole.

The white boxy things in front are the icetop sensors at the tops of previously deployed strings. Even though those strings were deployed weeks ago, they're still not ready to be used. It takes a month or so for the hole to freeze completely, and bad things happen to the sensors if they're powered up in water, because water can short out the electronics. Fortunately, ice doesn't conduct electricity!
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Summer camp

While looking through some photos from my last trip here, I found this picture of the Jamesway building I stayed in then. It's the same one I'm staying in this year!

Since drilling will be finished in a week (MUCH faster than expected), many of the drillers will be leaving before the end of the month. I'm going to stay awake until 8AM to attend the morning IceCube meeting so I can ask to be moved to the main station after some of the drillers clear out. Living in the main station would make those occasional middle-of-the-night bathroom runs much more pleasant!
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Big day

This morning I went to sleep at around 9:30AM and woke up at 11:30AM. Since I seemed to be awake, I got up, rushed through the morning ritual of pulling on some jeans and a shirt, lacing up my hiking boots, pulling on a light coat, and then walking the 40 yards to the summer camp bathroom to brush my teeth, etc. Once that was done, went back to my little sleeping cubicle and pulled on my ECW gear then walked the 100 yards or so to the station.

I went through all that rather than lying in bed because the Prince of Monaco had skied in from a camp ~10 km away and was giving a brief talk in the galley. He doesn't look like Grace Kelley at ALL!

After he finished speaking, I got lunch. Today was Burger Day and the hamburgers were surprisingly good for cafeteria-style food ... the Prince even lauded his as the best burger he'd ever had in Antarctica! Someone at my table noted that he could also have safely said you couldn't find a better burger within 2000 miles of here.

After lunch I walked back to summer camp and got another 3 hours of sleep. 5 hours of sleep is actually pretty common down here. I've made it halfway through my work shift already and still don't feel too bad.

As a driller, I technically have the day off, but there are problems with the data acquisition software (which is the system I work on most of the time back home) so I'm taking the opportunity to fix those.

I did go out to the drill camp at the start of my shift to look at the drill computers with one of the drillers who had mentioned that it sounded like one of the computer fans was dying. We pulled apart the computer and eventually determined that the noise he'd heard was coming from a generator fan located immediately behind the computer! This was good news because we don't seem to have any spare fans.

While looking for computer fans, someone needed to check the storeroom in the IceCube Lab building. The driller gave me a quick lesson and I got to drive a snowmobile to the ICL! That was pretty fun and MUCH better than walking!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Camping out

Throughout the summer season, skiers either ski in from the coast, from 1 degree latitude out, or from a shorter distance. They also fly here, then ski (or kite-ski) out. While they're here, they camp out a short distance from the ceremonial pole.

The official station policy is that they get a tour of the station, one cup of coffee and a cookie, and that's it.
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Out of it, but getting back into it

I'm now working third shift (10:30PM-7:30AM), but my body hasn't quite shifted over. I only got 2 hours sleep on Sunday and ~5 hours today, so my down time has been spent laying around and resting rather than taking pictures and posting them here.

In spite of that, I'm feeling pretty good right now, halfway through my work day (I'm on lunch break). My plan for tomorrow is to get up at 5PM (an hour before suppertime), head over to the station, and spend 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. I've been walking to and from drill camp every day, and was able to set a fairly brisk pace this morning without feeling winded, so I think I'm ready.

To top off the morning, it will also be time for my bi-weekly 2-minute shower! What a great way to start the day!

We're just starting to drill the 16th hole, which will take about 30 hours. After that, we'll have a day off, and I hope to have a chance to finally post some pictures!

Biweekly showers

As my lovely wife reminded me, "biweekly" can mean either once every two weeks or twice a week. Fortunately for me (and everyone who has to smell me), we get two 2-minute showers per week, to conserve both water and fuel.

One big asset for a 2-minute shower is liquid soap. I can turn on the water and get wet in about 15 seconds, then turn off the water and lather up and shampoo my hair. When I'm ready, I can turn the water on and take my time rinsing off and relaxing in the warm water.

It's amazing how nice a 2-minute shower can be!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another thing about staggered work shifts

It's still early morning for me, and I'm barely even aware that it's 1:45AM Sunday morning. Having decided that the midnight meal of corn dogs, onion rings and french fries wasn't really appealing this early, I decided to get a bowl of raisin bran. In order to get at the cereal, I had to squeeze past a table of raucous people drinking wine and partying, and I realized that, for those people, it's still Saturday night!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Out of it

I've worked the night shift for the past two days, but my body still isn't totally moved over yet. I got about 2 hours of sleep yesterday. When I got off work this morning, I skipped supper and went straight to bed (which there were still ~2 hrs of satellite left!) I got about 5 hours of sleep and about 4 hours of tossing and turning.

The 16th hole should be finished on Wednesday afternoon, after which we'll get a day off! I hope to have time to upload photos then...


People work different shifts here, both because they're assigned to one of the 3 regular shifts or because they need to put in long hours to maximize the amount of work they get done down here. Because I'm supposed to be on "night" shift (hard to call it that when the sun's out 24 hours), I woke up at 11:30PM, got ready and headed into the station for breakfast. I met a couple of other IceCube people who were just leaving to go to sleep. What's the proper greeting at that point? Good morning? Good night? A lot of people just say "Hey", unless they know what stage of the day that other person's at.

I'm a bit slow

There are screens in the galley and online which loop through a few important webpages ... the day's flight schedule, the day's weather, the amount of time before satellite rise (when we get Internet connectivity) or the amount of time left before the satellite sets, a safety-related picture, and graphs of water/power/fuel usage.

The weather page includes a random picture. It's often South-Pole related, but people can submit their own pictures. One of my co-workers has a bunch of penguin pictures which pop up occasionally.

A couple of days ago, pictures of Grace Kelly started appearing. The first time I saw one, I thought "That's unusual". I saw the same picture yesterday. Today, I saw several other pictures of her, and I *finally* connected them with the Prince of Monaco's visit to the station on Wednesday.

I blame the lack of oxygen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Workout schedule

Because of the high-altitude conditions, we're advised to take it easy and not work out for the first couple of weeks here.

Along with my daily 3-4 block trudge to and from the "summer camp" where I'm staying, I've started walking back from the drill camp each day (after catching a ride there on the local mass transit system, which is an on-call shuttle van.) It's a bit less than a mile from the station.

Next week, I'm going to start walking there and back. The week after, I'll add a 20 minute elliptical session and slowly scale that up during my time here.

I'm hoping that by the time I leave the ice, I'll have the lungs of a Kenyan!

Work schedule

I've got a tentative schedule now. I'm going to try to work from 1AM to 11AM every day. This may sound awful, but it's bliss for two reasons.

First, it's light here 24 hours a day. The sun just goes around an around. Word is that the two week sunset is really cool (literally, because the temps REALLY start dropping after that)

Second, we only have Internet connectivity for ~10 hours a day (currently from ~12:30AM to 10:10AM, but it's 4 minutes earlier every day), and I'll have access to the Web for much of my work day with that schedule.

As a corollary to #2, my friend and co-worker John Jacobsen will be arriving in a couple of weeks and he'll probably be working most of that time as well.

This schedule will change in a couple of weeks, however. The drillers have gotten really good at their jobs, to the point where they're doing 3 holes a week and still getting a day off. We only have 6 more holes to drill, so drilling should be finished in two more weeks.

After that, things will likely be less routine. I'll need to help clean up, burn the season's software and data to DVDs, and help get things ready for winter. I'll probably also be working more on the data acquisition software, which is my main focus for the other 11 months of the year.


I took my last Diamox pill today! I'm almost done with tingly fingers and excessive urination!

Monday, January 05, 2009


Rumors thrive on Antarctica.

I already mentioned being part of the rumor mill for the Christchurch to McMurdo flight (where I overheard someone saying we probably wouldn't be going, and 45 minutes later we were on our way.)

Another rumor which I heard multiple times at McMurdo was that someone at the South Pole had stolen 150 lb. of prime ribs that were sitting out defrosting for the Christmas dinner. I was a *little* skeptical ... where does one hide 150 lb of meat?

This morning I asked a couple of people who were here over Christmas, and they laughed and said that they not only had enough meat, but they had the leftovers in meals for the next two days!

Panting and peeing

The South Pole is around 9500 ft and the air pressure is much lower here, so the effective altitude is around 12000 ft above sea level. This takes some getting used to, and can even be life threatening. As an example, once I got to my sleeping area (a curtained-off cell in a Quonset hut at "summer camp"), I made my single bed. After I made my bed, I had to sit down for 4-5 minutes to catch my breath!

Antarctica is also one of the driest places on Earth (because all moisture freezes out of the air), so moisture is constantly being sucked out of your body through your pores. To replace that, you need to drink a lot of water.

To help ease the transition to this high-altitude, the medical staff offers 3 days of Diamox which (I believe) helps to offset the acidity caused by excess CO2 by forcing your body to pee more (which somehow makes your body more basic ... I *think* that's the science behind it. To replace that peed-out fluid, you need to drink a lot of water.

We're supposed to drink around 4 liters of fluid a day. This means a LOT of trips to the bathroom!

At the Pole!

I made it back to the South Pole yesterday!

The flight was about the best possible. It was half-empty with no cargo except our luggage, and since there were only 19 people it was easy to get up and look out the windows or go into the cockpit to look around. The flight to McMurdo was also pretty good -- I was on the end of a bench, so I could stretch my legs out diagonally. Because I've obviously used all my good luck on those two flights, I'm expecting the flights back to be utter hell!

Internet coverage at the South Pole is via satellites, and we only have satellite coverage for ~11 hours a day (starting at around midnight). I'm not sure what my schedule it this year, so I may not be able to update this blog as frequently as I did last time.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

In McMurdo

After some confusion yesterday, I made it to McMurdo station, on the coast of Antarctica!

We were scheduled to be on an 8AM flight, which meant I needed to be outside my hotel at 5:45AM in order to get to the departure area, don my extreme weather gear for the trip, weigh in my luggage (and myself) and then watch a couple of orientation films (one on emergency procedures for the military plane, another on rules and regulations in Antarctica).

At around 8AM they loaded us onto the bus, drove us over to the airfield, drove up to the plane ... and then turned around and headed back to the waiting area.

While frustrating, this was much better than one possible alternative. It's possible to get onto the plane, take off, get halfway through the 8 hour flight and THEN have to turn around and head back to the terminal. This is called a boomerang, and the record is held by some poor guy who did this 7 times before finally making it to McMurdo!

When we got back to the terminal, the National Guard woman said the weather at McMurdo was bad, but that they were going to wait until 10AM to decide whether or not to scrap the flight.

Being a computer geek, I headed over to the computer room where I was able to get a network connection for my laptop. While I was there, one of the other passengers said he heard from someone at McMurdo that all hikers were being called back because a serious storm was rolling in.

I finished up my computer stuff, then packed up and headed back to the waiting area. I passed on the "reliable" news about the weather to my group and all agreed that we were probably not going. When 10:10 rolled around, we concluded that we were obviously staying in Christchurch for another day. A minute or two later, we were told to pack up and get on the plane!

Eight hours later we were on the ground in Antarctica and, after waiting around for a plane from the Pole to land and disgorge its two passengers, we headed over to McMurdo Station. After a half-hour briefing, we finally got to eat dinner, then pick up our luggage and go to our dorm rooms. This year I'm sharing a room with 3 other guys and one empty bed.

We're scheduled to fly out tomorrow, so I'll have to pack my bags and take them to be weighed in at 7PM. This is known as the Bag Drag. I'll keep a single carry-on for the night, everything else will be strapped onto a pallet and taken out to the airfield, ready to load onto the plane tomorrow.

Hopefully, my next entry will be made from the Pole!

Friday, January 02, 2009

In limbo

I got my gear yesterday and the order to catch the 5:45AM shuttle in order to be on the 8AM plane. I got everything packed and was in bed by 10PM, but my brain woke me up every hour or so to check that I hadn't overslept. I hate my brain sometimes!

At 3:30AM, my cell phone (which I was using as my alarm clock) started beeping to let me know the battery was almost dead. By the time I dug the charger out of my suitcase and plugged it in, I was WIDE AWAKE! Fortunately, that gave me plenty of time to get ready and I was out of the hotel 10 minutes before the shuttle bus was due. As you'd expect, the shuttle bus was late.

I got to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center), put on my gear and rushed over to the waiting area, where I sat for a while. They showed us a couple of videos (procedures to follow on the military plane and basic rules for Antarctica), then after another 10 minute wait, we grabbed our gear and got onto the bus! The bus slowly made its way through a couple of gates to the airfield, drove up to our plane, slowly turned around ... and then returned us to the waiting area. The weather was too bad for the 8AM flight. They're waiting until 10AM, at which point we'll either take off or be stuck in Christchurch for another day.