I know it’s been a while since I last posted an update. Why, you ask? Well, the short answer is that I’ve been busy settling in and learning my new job as a shuttle driver. And adjusting. I’ll attempt to bring everyone up to speed.
I made it to McMurdo on Thursday, October 18 after having spent sixteen days in Christchurch, NZ. As much as I loved Christchurch I was ready to head to my new home on the continent of Antarctica (the Ice). There are still stories and pictures I want to share about my time in New Zealand but I’ll save those for later.
After putting on our Extreme Cold Weather clothing, going through customs and checking in our luggage at the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) Passenger Terminal in Christchurch, we boarded our flight to the Ice. I flew on a chartered plane, an Airbus, that was very comfortable with lots of windows. Once the captain turned off the seat belt sign we were able to spread out in large empty areas on the plane. I even laid down and snoozed for a while.
Normally USAP participants are transported via US Air Force C-17s but because of the weather delays chartered flights were used to supplement the C-17s. The C-17s can handle roughly 150 passengers and cargo whereas the Airbus hold about 60 passengers. Because of the weight limits on the Airbus, I was limited to 30 pounds and a carry-on. The remainder of my luggage arrived two days later.
It was an amazing trip. It took five and a half hours to travel the 2300 miles. About two thirds of the way there we started seeing sheets of ice. Once we got closer to land we started seeing mountains and glaciers. Everything was white or either shades of gray.
The runways at McMurdo are on the Ross Ice Shelf. Landing on ice was way cool and very smooth. The Australian flight crew knew what they were doing. We traveled the nine miles to McMurdo on Ivan the Terra Bus. After dinner and a welcome briefing, we got our room and roommate assignments.
One of the other shuttle drivers asked me while we were in Christchurch if I’d be interested in rooming together. Since we seemed compatible, I said yes. His name is Eric and is from Colorado. He has worked two other seasons as a shuttle driver, and after taking last year off, is returning for his third season. It’s great having him around because of his knowledge and experience.
Our first room was in a dorm centrally located (near work and the dinning hall) which was convenient. Our room did not have a thermostat so we were at the mercy of whatever the temperature was set for our quarter of the dorm. At times the room was sweltering, other times freezing. The fan ran constantly and the air coming through the vent was very loud. My sinuses were not at all happy and I developed a sinus infection. The noise made it difficult to sleep. In fact, I slept with my noise cancelling headphones on for the first week and a half.
But I’m happy to report that we have since moved. The lodging folks were very understanding (thank you!) and we’re now in a dorm room where we can control the temperature and the vent is much quieter. Last night was the best I’ve slept since I’ve been here. So things are looking up.
Weather wise, it’s been up and down. Some days are sunny and calm, while others are cloudy and windy. I’m finding that 0 degrees doesn’t seem all that cold as long as you are dressed appropriately, and there isn’t any wind. I think it’s been as low as -8 degrees and as high as 20 degrees since I’ve been here. The wind chill has been a low as -30 degrees. We’ve had steady winds up to 20-30 mph. Thank goodness it’s spring! The weather will continue to moderate over the next three months with temperatures in December and January in the 30s.
My next post will be about the work I’m doing and what life is like on the Ice. But in closing, they say Antarctica is the driest, coldest, windiest and most isolated continent in the world. All of that is true, but it is also very beautiful. On a clear day the views are stunning and take my breath away.
|The cross at Hut Point near McMurdo. Photo by local resident.|