Before I talk about a couple of more Antarctic adventures, I should mention a recent change in my work schedule. Some of you already know, but about a ten days ago I transitioned to working nights, from 6 pm to 6 am. I was asked to move to nights after one of our shuttle drivers was hurt and had to return to the States. (We miss you Renee!)
It’s taken a while to adjust. But considering I am writing this at 0300 (3 am) on my day off, and I’m not sleepy - I think I’ve finally made it to the dark side (a local expression). I’ll be on this schedule until the end of the season, which for me will be the middle of February. I like the slower but steady pace, and the quietness of the community at night. I should also mention, as I have in the past, that working nights does not mean it’s dark outside. Feel like reading a book outside on the back porch at 2 am? It's possible, but maybe a bit chilly (15 degrees with the windchill).
Now to the Antarctic adventures. A few weeks ago I was invited to join a group going to an old airplane crash site (1970) near the now-retired Pegasus Field. Phoenix Field, where I landed when I flew into McMurdo, replaced Pegasus Field in 2014. What made this particularly interesting was being able to travel to the crash site in a Hagglund. It’s a tracked vehicle that is boxy and can go just about anywhere, although going out we followed the ice road. It’s also fairly comfortable to ride in.
|Riding in style out to the Pegasus crash site.|
On our ride out we spotted an young Weddell seal out on the ice shelf. We stopped and the pup scooted up close to us. (We are not allowed to approach the wildlife but if they approach you without any coaxing that is okay.) Unfortunately it was headed away from open water and a food supply meaning it was probably not going to survive. I spoke with some seal biologists afterwards, and it’s not clear why this happens. It sure was cute and seemed very playful.
|Looking like it could use a pal.|
|Well adapted for the cold, ice and snow.|
We also stopped by Phoenix Field to watch a New Zealand C130 take off.
|Ivan the Terror bus delivering passengers |
to a Kiwi C130.
|The C130 taking off with White Island in the background.|
At the Pegasus crash site, the plane (a C-121 Lockheed Constellation) is mostly-buried under snow and ice. On the ride out we were given an account of the ill fated flight but fortunately none of the 80 people onboard were seriously injured. We explored the site and got a group photo on the tail section.
|The tail section of the plane.|
|Our group photo. I'm the third one in from the left.|
We took a direct route back to McMurdo. It was a fun trip with some very nice folks.
I also took a tour of Discovery Hut, located a short distance from McMurdo on Hut Point. The building and its contents are well preserved, and entry is controlled. The inside is much as it was over 100 years ago.
|Discovery Hut at Hut Point.|
|The plaque outside Discovery Hut.|
The early explorers did not live in the hut as their ships were much warmer and better suited. So it was used for storage and a laboratory.
|Boxes from the early expeditions.|
|Glad I have light bulbs instead of lamp oil.|
|How about some really old biscuits?|
I tried to imagine what it must had been like back then. I had a new appreciation for what they endured but was happy to get back to my nice warm dorm room.
One last photo then off to bed. It's after 5 am and I need my sleep. I walked out to Hut Point earlier around 2 am to get a picture of the plaque above and finally saw a Weddell seal in the water. I watched it dive under the ice and swim around for a while before I got a decent picture. As I said above, they are well adapted for the cold, snow, ice, and water.