Saturday, February 16, 2019

My bags are packed...I'm ready to go

I couldn't resist borrowing the words from a John Denver song.  I will be leaving on a jet plane, specifically a C-17.  I was supposed to leave on Friday, February 15, but because of mechanical problems our flight was cancelled.  It didn’t look like I would leave until the 18th at the earliest.  Fortunately, space opened up on the Sunday flight, so I take off tomorrow afternoon with only a two day delay. 

Since my last post, the supply ship and the icebreaker have left.  The open water has expanded, and winter, or at least fall, has returned.  It is getting progressively colder, and we’ve been receiving snow, although it doesn't seem to accumulate.

The Ocean Giant leaving McMurdo Station at 2:30 am.

I transitioned back to days earlier this week as my last official day was Tuesday.  It’s taken four days, but I’m now sleeping through the night and feeling more rested each day.  I enjoyed working nights with the slower pace, the lighting was amazing, and we had a good crew.  I feel it added to my overall McMurdo experience.

Lots of open water with Mt. Discovery in the background.
It was novel hearing the waves splash on the shoreline.

Over the past couple of days I’ve ventured out to take a few more pictures, some of which I will include below.  I feel like I’ve gotten “the full meal deal” here on the Ice.  I’m glad I got the opportunity to experience a place like no other on Earth. 

The cross at Hut Point with lots of open water.
A view looking towards Erebus Bay from Hut Point.

But it’s time to move on.  I’m going to meet my good friends John and Joan Henshaw in Sydney, Australia where we will spend five nights before boarding a cruise ship and sail around New Zealand.  Afterwards, we’ll spend three nights in Melbourne with friends they met on a cruise last year.  John and Joan will fly back to the Bay Area on March 11 and I will return to Christchurch for a few more days before flying home on March 17.

Hut Point with the Royal Society in the background.

I will do one last post after I get home to recognize some of the people I’ve met along the way and to share some parting thoughts.  But I’ll close for now by saying it’s been an incredible ride, or should I say drive.

A friend I met at Hut Point.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The supply ship has arrived!

The supply ship, the Ocean Giant, arrived at McMurdo Station on Wednesday, January 30.  I went to bed around 6:30 am and when I got up at 1:30 pm it was docked.  It’s pretty impressive, and there is a lot of cargo to unload.

The Ocean Giant soon after docking, with 
Polar Star in the background.

Off-loading began late Wednesday and should be completed by the end of the first week in February, weather permitting.  More on that later.  The focus at McMurdo right now is to unload and store all the incoming supplies as quickly as possible.  Besides food stuffs, most everything we need here to operate comes on the supply ships.  In addition, materials for two construction projects at McMurdo are on the ship.  A new Information Technology & Communications (IT&C) Facility and a new telecommunications site are slated to begin this year.

Additional personnel was brought in to McMurdo to unload and upload of the supply ship.  A U.S. Navy Cargo Handlers Battalion was brought in to direct the operation.  Among other things, they operate the cranes that physically move the containers to and from the ship.  

Most of the containers on the deck have been removed.  
Notice the open water in the background.

A group of men and women from the New Zealand Army were brought in to transport the containers from the ice pier to the cargo yards, warehouses, and construction sites.  The trucks they drive have been around for years kept specifically for this annual event.  It’s amazing they still run.

Each truck has a name.  Meet Mary Patrice and Aneeda.

With the other support personnel needed for the operation, called the “Evolution”, the total number of people at McMurdo to now over 900. 
The operation seemed to be going smoothly.  But then the weather changed. It started snowing early Saturday morning and continued throughout the day.  There was not a large accumulation of snow, just a lot of drifting.  The winds increased Saturday night into Sunday, and all dock operations ceased.

Wintery weather returns to McMurdo.

The snow and wind also caused the cancellation of all flights in and out of Williams and Phoenix airfields on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Hopefully flights will begin again soon.  As folks in the midwest and east coast states know, we’re all at the mercy of the weather.  There is little you can do but wait it out.

The flight board is usually full but not Saturday 
thru Monday.  Just a note from the day crew.

However, the weather had one positive affect.  When I woke up Sunday afternoon I went to the window to see how the dock operations were going.  At first I couldn’t figure out why the ice was black, but then I realized it was gone and I was looking at open water.  What just a few hours earlier was a sheet of broken ice was now gone.  With the ice gone we may see more penguins and whales.  I can only hope.

Open water, looking towards Mt. Discovery.

For you animal lovers, I am adding some bonus photos of a seal and penguins.  One of our shuttle drivers (thanks Colin!) is an excellent photographer and these are his pictures.

Waddell seal along the shipping channel.  Photo by Colin Harnish.
Adelie penguin near McMurdo Station. Photo by Colin Harnish. 
Emperor penguin near Pegasus Field.  Photo by Colin Harnish.

I’ll end by saying my time here is quickly coming to a close.  I leave on February 15, weather and aircraft availability permitting.  I plan on doing one last post before I leave, hopefully with some of my own whale and penguin photos.  I will do one closing post once I return home with some summary observations on my working in the Land of Ice, and some recognition of the people I’ve met along the way.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo from my last shuttle run on Saturday, February 2.

View of Observation Hill from the ice road as a snow storm approaches.

One last Antarctic Adventure

I promise this will the be the last post.  But I wanted to share with you one of the most powerful experiences I had while on the Ice. ...