Saturday, October 12, 2002

I'm still getting the photo posting figured out. Here's one of me in front of Mt. Erebus, the world's southernmost active volcano. Its peak is about 12,500 feet above sea level.

Its been almost a week since arriving here - feels like much longer! We are still at McMurdo - won't be able to get our camp set up until Tuesday for a variety of reasons. On Wednesday we will take our first reconnaissance helo flight over the Weddell seal breeding colonies to see where they are all hanging out so we don't miss any when we start tagging. We are also making a stop at Beaufort Island to see if seals are breeding there this year, and as a bonus we'll get to see a big Emperor penguin colony there. You have to travel pretty far from McMurdo to see penguins as they live in the pack ice (broken-up ice) and the ice around McMurdo hasn't broken up in recent years due to large icebergs which have calved from the Ross Ice Shelf and are blocking the entrance of McMurdo Sound.

We returned yesterday from our Snowcraft course (aka 'Happy Camper School') which is required for anyone who will be working off-station down here. Basically you are supposed to learn that surviving over night outdoors in Antarctica is completely feasible if you are prepared and know what to do. We built snowmounds, snow trenches, snow-brick wind breaks, practiced using all the survival gear...and yes, slept outside at about 40 below. I was incredibly impressed with how toasty I was once in my sleeping bag. The lowpoints were 1) going to the bathroom and 2) anything requiring manual dexterity. Overall, it was pretty fun and everyone was VERY glad to return to town yesterday afternoon.

We are off to investigate an observation tube someone set up down on the sea ice - You can crawl down this tube (about 20 feet deep) and there is a glass chamber you can sit in under the ice and check out seals, jellyfish, and anything else that wanders by. Just seeing the underside of the ice layer should be pretty cool.
Hope everyone is well!

Monday, October 07, 2002

Hello all - I've arrived at McMurdo Station, Antarctica! Very exciting! THis will be short due to the fact that I'd rather wander around right now than sit in front of a computer (although we do have a phenomenal view of Mt. Discovery from our lab window). We arrived around 230 pm today after a wonderfully uneventful flight (had a bonus day in Chirstchurch yesterday as the weather was still too stormy down here, and they didn't even make us fly 1/2way here in order to find that out). The experience of getting off the plane into this incredible, blazing white environment was intense. No windows in the plane so it's all a surprise when you come down those steps. We were fullly bundled into our extreme cold weather gear, but it didn't really seem all that cold. About 2 degrees F, but no wind. We were ferried over to town from the ice runway in this enormous ice-bus ("Ivan the Terra Bus"), tracked down our bags, had a little debriefing by the head NSF guy, found our dorm, toured around a bit and then had a surprisingly good dinner in the galley. Supposedly, they hire real chefs for the winterover season to keep everyone happy in the dark down here, then in late october, they trade them out for more standard cafeteria cooking staff. So, the gourmet food will only hold out a few weeks. Better make the most of it.
We will actually only be on base until this Saturday (or so). Lots of training and gearing up for fieldwork to be done in the nest few days.
As I write, the sun is slooooowly setting, but will not actually set. For the next couple weeks it will be twilighty for a few hours around 12-3, but after that its one long day.
More to come!

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