Saturday, October 25, 2008

Here are Pat and me at McMurdo. Everyone here wears these red parkas. They make this weather (from +10 degrees F to -10F) seem quite ordinary. And after all, it is summer here.
Notice the building in the background on the left. All of the buildings here are elevated so that the snow can blow under rather than drifting. Not much snow falls here. In fact, it's one of the driest places on the planet. But the small amount of snow blows around a lot, and the wind can be (but isn't always) ferocious. Starting this week, the sun will be up around the clock until February.

We came to Antarctica from New Zealand on an Air Force C17 cargo jet. In many ways it was more comfortable than a commercial airline--more room. Did need to wear earplugs, though.

The flight was 5 hours, and I got to do it three times just to get here. There's a term called "boomerang." That means you get in the plane, fly for several hours, and then turn around and go back to new Zealand because the weather was too bad to land in Antarctica. I had a 5 hour boomerang, and a few days later a 10 hour one. On that one, we got all the way here and had to turn back. All together I spent 11 days on paid vacation in Christchurch, NZ between these trips. It was a very nice all expenses paid vacation, and I got a paycheck too. Life's surprises!

This is one of "my" furnaces. We do preventive maintenance on each of these monthly, quarterly, and an annual teardown. No wonder they run so well.

The last sunrise and sunset until February happened this week. Now the sun is up all the time here. Sleeping is easy though. The dorm room has a very good black out curtain, so we go instantantly from day to night.

It also helps sleeping that my job is very physical. The only way to get around is walking. My boots are huge insulated steel-toed things. The surfaces are snow-covered, sprinkled with cinders for traction. Just walking is a lot of work. The cold is a drain, too.

This is the door to the outside from the Crary Science Center. This building is what this place is officially about. Right now there are about 10 groups of scientists working with the National Science Foundation here. The rest of us are support for all of that. All together, there will be about 1200 people here by January--the height of summer. In this building is an aquarium where there are fish that live in the ocean here. The fish have a version of glycol to keep them from freezing.

This is me "making the rounds." Every day I tromp over snow drifts to 10 buildings to make sure the furnaces are running and that there isn't a fuel leak. The fuel here is jet fuel, but other than that and the constant monitoring, the furnaces and controls are quite ordinary.
In the background is the medical center. It's a typical building, built decades ago of corrugated metal. The doors are freezer-type. They open inward so the wind doesn't catch them.
I'm wearing "big red." Everyone is issued one of these parkas, along with lots of other cold weather clothes. Big red is very heavy, but perfect for the climate. No wind gets through! And the hood is big enough to shelter even the face.

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Here it is--the view from where I live right now looking out over the frozen ocean. This is McMurdo Station, Antarctica. It's summer here, and it's October. The temperatures range about 10 degrees either side of zero F. It feels like Minnesota in the winter--a crisp solid cold. It's quite comfortable except when the wind blows hard.