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.)







      video

      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!!