Saturday, November 6, 2010

The land of the SUN

So a few weeks ago, I got the chance to go to "Happy Camper" which is an overnight survival course. We don't usually get to go on such great adventures but once in a while when a space needs to be filled, we can go. It was soooo much fun! I never actually thought there would be a time in my life that I would build a trench in Antarctica and sleep in it overnight. It was so refreshing to be out of McMurdo for a little while and go CAMPING!

These were the only buildings out there. We had a classroom and a storage shed to hold sleeping bags and tents (if people wanted to sleep in a tent).

We saw a poor little Adele penguin running around too. I think they call them suicide penguins because somehow they got away from the pack. I think this guy looks like a survivor. I hope he made it.

This is my bedroom for the night. It was actually really nice and cozy. The ice there was really easy to cut into blocks. So cool but warm at the same time!

The seals are starting to come up through the cracks to berth their young. I went on a tour of the Pressure Ridges by Scott Base and we caught a glimpse of some new borns.

In this picture, I headed off to Cape Evans where Scott had a hut. It is a historical site so nothing has been changed since 1907.

On the way we stopped at a iceberg stuck in the ice. It had that beautiful blue color throughout. Amazing and massive!

We get to have a little play time too, here at McMurdo. This was one of our Dodgeball tournaments. We threw off our competition by dressing in costumes. It must have helped because out department came in 1st and 2nd place!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In the beginning...

Hello everyone! I've been busy getting my life situated in McMurdo so I'm sorry I haven't blogged since I've been here. My goal for my blog is to try to write once a week...

It has been an amazing experience so far. I feel like I have been finding my bearings and creating a new home here in Antarctica. So let me tell you about this place that I live in. Who knew that -40 isn't that bad with the right clothing. We stepped off the plane into the cold Antarctic air and it was magical. We were transported to town in "IVAN the Terra Bus".
The town consists of a few main buildings, dorms, and a lot of minor buildings. I live in 155 which is the main building that has dorms as well as the dining hall, store, hairdresser, gear checkout, video store, radio station, and offices.

It kind of feels like college living which takes some getting used to again, but kind of fun too. McMurdo sits on Ross Island. On my way to the building I clean in the morning, I can see the ice shelf that will partially melt in the summer. Right now this is where the landing strip is and field camps that the scientists stay at during the day. The Ross Ice shelf is about 60 miles to the other side where we can see a mountain range called the Royal Societies.
My schedule is Monday - Saturday 7:30am - 5:30 which works out to be about 54 hours a week. I also got a job bar tending 2x a month which is a good deal because it is a paid position and tips (which will be nice for traveling money after my time here is over). Our group is really fun and energetic and it is a pleasure to work with them.

The people here are from all aspects of life. There are a lot of tradespeople here that work to keep the facilities running. There are also many people that started out from the bottom and worked there way up to whatever position they have now. I am pretty sure that I am a minority being a first year. Most of the people here right now are returning people that were here for another season.

We can go on hikes around the base once we take the training of how to recognize marked trails and the signs of hypothermia. I went with a group of people on a night hike to a place called Castle Rock (I'm trying to enjoy the night before it disappears). The sky was really beautiful! The Milky Way was so bright and we could see so many stars! The auroras were out too (but difficult to photograph without a tripod). There were pods along the way to warm up it and get out of the wind.

It was actually quite comfortable in the Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. Although the condensation from your breath collects on your eyelashes and causes them to freeze. My eyelashes started sticking together, so I reached up to feel them and felt icicles growing on them!

Interesting things about McMurdo:
  • No spider webs or any living creatures of any kind. Not yet anyway. There will be some animal life when it starts getting warmer - skuas (I hear that they are like sea gulls but will steal food right out of your hand so you need to be careful), seals, and penguins, from what people tell me, are coming soon.

  • Nacreous clouds - These are beautiful clouds that look like an oil spill in the sky with purple and green edges. (hard to capture on camera)

      • Scott's Hut - This hut is a 10 minute walk from McMurdo and was last inhabited in 1907

    • Auroras - We have been seeing so many lately. They are not quite the brilliant green that I have seen in pictures but whitish. They are really cool because the move around.

    • Static electricity - it is so dry here that I can see an arc of electricity from my key to the door lock before it connects. I have to be careful not to touch the metal walls! It feels like enough to jolt you out of unconsciousness. Just kidding, but you here people getting shocked all day.
    • We are lucky to be in Winfly (Winter fly-in) because not only do we get to experience day and night but we also get some of the extreme weather that Antarctica has to offer (due to sun warming up the Earth causing winds). We have three conditions here. Most of the time we are in Condition 3 which is pretty clear but can have some wind. In Condition 2, it get a little worse and we are not allowed to travel outside of McMurdo. In Condition 1, we have to stay inside whatever building we are in until it returns to Condition 2. Weather here comes and goes pretty quickly. One day can start of perfectly clear and by the afternoon turn to Condition 2. This video shows Condition 2 conditions. (We were excited to see different weather.)

      Well, thanks for following my blog and I'll try to keep you posted on my life in McMurdo. I am loving my time here!!

      Saturday, August 14, 2010

      Goodbye, Hello

      Well it has been an experience to pack up everything I own from my house to my classroom in a month to prepare for my journey to the Antarctic. Thankfully I had a little help. I have to give a shout out to my friend Sarah, my brother Russ, and my sister and bro-in-law Lizzie and Kevin. Without them, I would still be rummaging through all the “stuff” I have accumulated over the years. I am somewhat amazed that most of my stuff has fit into a 6 x 10 storage unit. Afterward, my brother treated Sarah and I to massages at a spa! It was beyond the call of brotherly duty but we thoroughly enjoyed the pampering!!!

      I also felt like I needed to close out the part of my life I thought was going to be in a marriage. On my “non” wedding day, the day that I was going to be married, the girls and I went out on the town and had a little party of our own. We had a great night! Thanks Pam and Katie!

      It is also kind of humorous that last year I went to a bridal show and won the grand prize in a raffle which included a one night stay at the “Rustic Romance” cabin at the same location where I was going to get married. So… to close out that portion of my life, I decided to go up to the cabin with my friend Katie and have goodbye, and celebrate the opportunity to have a good life!
      Katie and I had a great time hanging out at Lake Gregory (and the waterslide there). We went hiking and enjoyed watching movies and champagne while watching numerous shooting stars fly across the mountain sky. It was great closure.

      The last bit of packing up included cleaning out my classroom of 7 years worth of papers and curriculum that I have accumulated throughout my time at SDCCS. Much of it went to the new 5th grade teachers and some of it in storage for my return to teaching. It was refreshing but a serious time consuming event. Thank you Sarah for donating your time to come help me. I couldn’t have done it without you!!!

      My voyage to Antarctica started off with a trip to Denver for an orientation of the program. I got to meet some of the other people that I will be working with in Antarctica as well as a few extras from the hotel (Gerard and Joshua A……..). The people that are coming down to the Ice are very interesting and have had many exciting voyages of their own (One girl has ridden coast to coast on a unicycle!) It has been really fun getting to know all of them!

      On the flight from Denver to LAX, I sat next to a woman who was a kindred soul and we chatted for the whole flight. Jane (or Jan, we were not as concerned with names as conversation) was an extraordinary woman to talk to! She was a mother to 16 children that ranged from 51 to 29. It was amazing to hear about many of the great stories she had to tell. When we got into LAX, we were enjoying our conversation so much that we had dinner with each other too. It is amazing the incredible people that come across your path in life. I really hope there will be a book of your life that comes out, Jane.

      I am now in New Zealand. The flight from LAX to Auckland was long but went well. I watched a movie, ate a snack and slept for most of the flight. We are now on the 4th flight out of 5, and on our way to Christchurch. There we will pick up our Extreme Weather Gear and have 2 nights of relaxation and travel time around Christchurch until we fly out on a C-17 military flight on Sunday. Cheers for now.

      Tuesday, July 13, 2010

      Shots, Dental, Ouch!

      I just came back from my vacation in Israel and Jordan with my sis and brother-in-law to a frantic rush to pass my medical examinations in time. I tried to do as much as I could before I left but now it's a race against time. So today I had two caviities refilled (You think they would be good for life, but no.), and of course I tend to need more numbing shots then most, so I took a battery of shots that left my tongue feeling like a football in my mouth. Yesterday, blood test and TB test. Thank goodness I already had a mammogram. Tomorrow, Hep B shot. Hopefully then I will get PQed (Physically qualified). Cross your fingers!

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010


      I know this seems like it has come out of nowhere for some of you, so I have decided to start this blog to fill you in on the details of my decision to work in Antarctica and to keep everyone posted on my status (hopefully it won't be frozen!).

      It all started out a long time ago with a dream of setting foot on every continent. I remember Africa was my first step when I went away to study wildlife management in Kenya for 6 weeks. The traveling bug bit me and I couldn't wait to explore our blue marble. I remember hearing about jobs on Antarctica where you could work there for 3months during their summer months. Back then the pay was good...not so much the case now. I have thought about going over the years, but let go of that dream as I was in relationships and obligations.

      Recently, my life has become all my own, once again, and I had to ask myself what do "I" want out of my life for "me". The answer was "I don't know". I think I started to lose focus on what I wanted out of life and started to run on cruise control; same job, same places, same home... It was comfortable, but there was something missing. Then, God started throwing things in my path to make me remember who I was. I kept meeting, randomly, people that had worked in Antarctica! Really, how many people work there? Less than 1% of the population, and I was meeting them. I decided to apply (after all, so many people apply and get turned down). I sent my application in and the recruiter called me back to let me know that I may want to cater my resume to what the agency was looking for...environmental maintenance (a.k.a. custodial work). She was a lovely woman and we talked on the phone for a half an hour.

      Things go really busy at work for a couple of weeks. I was thinking to myself that I had to resend my resume or I was going to let go of a dream, and this was really my last chance. The day I was going to sit down and revamp was the day that Nana services called me to set up an interview. I interviewed with them and a few days later I found out I got the job! So I am going to take a needed sabbatical from teaching and adventure to a new place to work hard with a whole bunch of other travelers that have similar goals as me and find myself once again.

      Now...I just need to figure out all the details! I will keep you posted!