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.


Gianni alsoknownas John said...

Holy cow, Rex! It must have been surreal to see all that ice gone so quickly! Is there a correlation between the ice breaker showing up last week and the massive ice sheet disappearing? How do you explain it?! This amazing time for you in Antarctica is drawing to an end rapidly. Your blog has been fascinating and fun to check on regularly. Instead of you just disappearing from us for five months, you brought us with you in a sense, so thank you.

Marie on Frazer said...

Interesting observations as usual Rex! Driving in that snowstorm must be scary because everything “on the ice” is grey and it must take getting used to...hopefully when it’s time for you to leave there won’t be any “weather”...the west coast is getting its share of rain/snow now, winter finally coming in maybe...did you watch the super bowl? If you didn’t, you didn’t miss anything...a battle of defense not offense...sorry to hear about your brother, hope everything goes well for him...will you be going to see him when you get back? Take care, enjoy your last week!

Rex said...

John, the disappearance of the ice is probably mostly related to the wind. But the icebreaker did create a "crack" that probably helped in the dispersal of the ice.

Marie, the best thing about driving is there is no traffic and really nothing to hit. I just have to avoid the "ice pot holes". The flat light makes it difficult to see the pot holes and the drifting snow. That is when I have to drive by the "feel" of the road.

For those not familiar with "flat light", it is when you have little to no contrast, and you don't have shadows or gradients of light to define shape. I had never experienced it until I came to the Ice. It plays funny tricks on your mind.

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