Mindy, Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: approximately -35°C
Sunrise: 8:41 am
Sunset: 5:08 pm
The Albert P. Crary (1911-1987) Science and Engineering Center at McMurdo Station, the United States of America Antarctic Base, is a treasure trove of Antarctic science. From the moment you step inside, posters and display cases highlight the diverse scientific program supported by the US National Science Foundation. The subjects are as varied as the Antarctic summer is long: polar ecology, invertebrate marine life, glaciers, volcanoes, seals, penguins, rocks and fossils, ozone depletion and aurora activity (to name but a few).
There is a staff of 4 in the Crary Lab over the winter. They are busy folk – organising supplies and equipment, monitoring and supporting on-going studies, ensuring computers and their programs are ticking along, and maintaining the building itself. Luckily, they agreed to take a bit of time out of their day for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour.
Beyond the front foyer of display cases is a full-blown, top-notch science centre. We explored storage areas with shelves and shelves (and shelves) of scientific equipment, supplies, research material, samples and specimens. Modular lab spaces dot the building, constructed to allow scientists to customise their working space. There are tanks for live aquatic critters, computer labs, illuminated incubation cabinets, and microscopes galore! Phew! All that’s missing are the scientists – but they’ll be back in full force at the end of the winter, carrying on the long tradition of Antarctic scientific study.
Jane, Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -15°C
On Sunday a group of us travelled to the Ice Falls, not far from Scott Base to explore the inside of a crevasse.
We roped up and headed up the side of the glacier. I was ‘poodle’ so led the way for my team, and if anyone was going to fall into a crevasse, it was going to be me. To be honest, there was a little part of me that wanted to fall in somewhere. I knew I would be safe as Steve and Alf who were tied to me would arrest my fall if I did; well that’s what is supposed to happen!
We reached the entrance to the crevasse and Tom set up the ropes so we could descend safely. Then I was first down, sliding the first bit which was fun and climbing down the rest of the way into the icy blue abyss.
On reaching the bottom the scale of the crevasse becomes apparent. It’s a bit like being in a cathedral which is completely peaceful. The snow bridge over the top of the crevasse sits on top of two walls of blue ice. The stratigraphy clearly shows the annual snow fall and layers of dust carried over by storms from the dry valleys. It was a truly amazing experience.
On our way back we decided to take the fast route down the slope back to the Hagglund, so we just sat down and slid to the bottom.
Jane, Monday, March 1st, 2010
Wind Speed: 12 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -26⁰C
On Monday, Mindy and I decided to go for a walk around Observation Hill to enjoy the wonderful scenery as much as possible before the long, dark winter sets in.
After half an hour getting dressed in the layers of Antarctic clothing, we walked up the scoria slopes behind the Base and made our way along the road to the start of the well-worn path. The path winds around the base of the hill and the volcanic rock (which comes from Mt Erebus, the southern–most active volcano in the world) is coloured by vibrant reds and yellows.
The walk provides wonderful views of the surrounding area for the residents of Ross Island. We could see large areas of open water in the Ross Sea, a rare sight I am told. Black Island and White Island, to the south, were clearly visible.
As we clambered along the rough path we came across a group of seven young Adelie penguins, gathered just off to our right, barely noticeable against the snow-covered black scoria. We watched them for as long as we could, before the cold wind coming from the South Pole got the better of us and we continued on to McMurdo for a warm drink.
Jane, Thursday, February 11th, 2010
Windspeed: 8 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -16°C
My first view of Antarctica was when the back door of the US Air Force C 17 plane opened on Pegasus air field on the frozen Ross Sea. The back of the plane opened up completely to two large yellow bulldozers - not what I expected! They were getting ready to unload the cargo I had been facing on the long flight down to the Ice (given that it is a military plane, passengers and cargo are all mixed in together). The cold air came rushing in but the Extreme Cold Weather Clothing (ECWs) we were issued with in Christchurch kept me nice and warm.
I finally had a proper view when I stepped off the plane. I saw a pristine landscape of picturesque snow-covered mountains and clear blue skies. I didn’t have too much time to take it all in as I was quickly ushered, with my three new colleagues, onto ‘Ivan the Terra Bus’ for the 45 minute drive to Scott Base. We were really excited to see our first Emperor penguins on the journey, even if they were a bit lost! On arrival at Scott base (NZ’s science base), we had a safety briefing and a tour followed by a much anticipated look around outside.
Lots of seals were sleeping around holes in the sea ice just in front of the base. When the clouds lifted we were also treated to a beautiful view of smoke rising from Mount Erebus.
It was an amazing day, hopefully the first of many during my time on the Ice!
Anna, Thursday, February 12th, 2009
The time has come to say farewell to our surrogate icy continent, and head back to warmer climes. Yup, our 6 months have flown past, and we are now in our final week here in Antarctica, in a hurricane of paperwork, ECWs and teary farewells as we try to tie up our work, pack our gear and welcome the new winter conservators soon to hit our frozen shores.
Our last stint in the field has been extremely successful, and Jana and I are well chuffed with the work we were able to get done out there the past month: conserving the Wardroom stove and flues, the fodder bales, cataloguing all the new artefacts that were uncovered, treating a large whack of artefacts - the list goes on!
Now we depart with a hoard of memories - penguins talking outside our tents all night, the sound of the ice floes crunching against each other with the waves on the beach, the smell of the seals tanning themselves on the shore - such a beautiful bonus to our work.
But by far the most important memory we will be taking is the magnificent experience of having the honour of working on the huts, being given the opportunity to camp at Cape Evans and Royds and experience the spirit of the sites while working, and having the supreme privilege of treating those artefacts that the explorers left behind, that we now appreciate as a memento of their adventures.
We hope you all continue to follow the adventures of our new winter conservators once they get on the ice! Ciao for now!