Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome to McMurdo!

The purpose of this trip is, contrary to popular belief, NOT to walk around on amazing cliffs and hang out with penguins & leopard Weddell seals. We are here to retrograde a little instrument enclosure called ARRO that records and transmits magnetic and auroral data. It's an eight foot cube, totally self-sufficient with wind turbines, solar panels and a rack of batteries. Unfortunately, our goal here is to break it all down, pack it up inside itself and bring it home. Sometimes that's just what happens with experiments, it's called politics. However, we hit our first stumbling block today since we need to pack up the delicate solar panels and all-sky camera before doing anything else and the cases we needed for each were not ready or missing. Things will get going tomorrow again, but today was a nice break during which I got a chance to do other work. And take a walk up to the Hut point again to watch the icebreaker ship try to bust through the ice and make a shipping channel. He was doing a pretty good job of it! The first of two huge shipping vessels comes in a few days from now. They are preparing for the winter season down here, which is approaching quickly. No more regular planes will fly after around mid-February.

McMurdo is a nice place, although (gasp! I can't believe I'm saying this!) it actually makes me miss Alaska. There is plenty to do here, lots of socializing, a crazy scene made up of half military or ex-military and half hippies or ex-hippies. Lots of burners, riot grrls, you get the idea. But for me, having that stereotypical temperament of the lone scientist, it's a little too busy. I would rather have the solitude and isolation. But that's what hiking is for! I've already been out walking twice in 48 hours, even when exhausted, but hey that's my usual habit. Alaska is definitely more intense and beautiful, and totally more primitive. I bet if I came here for a winter, I'd see some real similarities though.

Despite all the whiteness, Antarctica is actually quite 'green!'

Trash bins can be somewhat confusing!

There is a bin for everything and it is all meticulously recycled or burned or re-used. You must separate plastic from cardboard from paper from food scraps from bio waste from dryer lint! Everything is about saving every last drop, which is often military standard anyway. The town works very efficiently this way. Speaking of the town, would you like to see it? This is McMurdo Station (MacTown), Antarctica. [Click to make the picture bigger & see the town better!]

Not bad for the middle of nowhere

There are up to 1,000 people just at this one station at any given time during the summer. It drops way down to 200 or so for winter-over, but still quite impressive. I ended today with a 2 hour (!!!) yoga class in the chapel and a warm shower. How's that for living at the end of the earth? Tomorrow: more field work! I'll try really hard not to get any sunburn like I did the first day out!

{actual posting date: Friday, January 15th}

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