On the ICE

Day One: Jan 4, 2008 (NZ time)
A loud crack sounded over the intercom and heads all around me snapped up from books and papers as 70 sets of eyes found their ways to the window of the cockpit. “Uhh,” my heart raced, I wondered if the plane was about to boomerang, “Uhh, we’re going to circle until the fire station clears the runway…there’s a penguin out there.”

Smiles cracked all around me, even the old timers who have been to the ice 15 or more seasons laughed, this is what happens here, in this strange new place. That is not to say that getting to McMurdo was a synch, the base is 9,500 miles from Portland and planes are often forced to return or boomerang back to New Zealand due to harsh weather (one group had 7 such boomerangs before eventually landing on the ice), so I was relieved and ecstatic.
I am not sure what to say about my first step off the plane. For the thirty minute bus ride to the base I didn’t say anything at all, the snow pack and -5C temperature along with Mt Erebus literally took my breath away. As we boarded the bus people shouted about penguins and the cold, but I had eyes only for Erebus. Standing at 12,500 feet Erebus is the most active volcano in Antarctica and we were directly in its shadow. Its sharp icy ridges and continual plume of thick milky smoke make it look even more formidable and it is therefore no wonder that early explorers named it after their valiant ship that was the first to conquer the journey to the Antarctic.

LAB 1:Currently I am located at the main Crary lab in McMurdo (photo shown left is from the top of Observation Hill). This lab is very large and has all of the common conveniences. However, within the next week my team and I will be leaving the comforts of McMurdo and heading out into the felid where the real science begins.
Doing research can mean anything from stepping outside into the yard and collecting rain water to taking a helicopter plane two hours away and camping for up to a month at a time. Here in Antarctica we are doing the latter of the two… This gives an entirely new meaning to preparing for the field.
Usually in science you will prepare to be out in the filed for a day or two of sampling but you will be able to return to the lab to analyze your data. Here it is a completely different story. We will be without things like: containers, sinks, WATER, chemicals, cleaning solutions, zip lock bags, and everything else unless we bring it. Therefore, for the next week before we leave we are all planning, cleaning bottles, washing equipment, and packaging everything in bubble wrap so that it is safe for the 2 hour helicopter ride. Apart from all of that we are planning all of our meals (to feed 5) for the next two weeks and bringing that food with us to the field camps too. So there is a lot of work to do and when we are not in classes or lectures we are in the lab preparing. While doing so however we are all repeating the mantra that soon the grunt work will be over and we will be heading out to sample.
One thing at a time though. Each bottle must be washed then rinsed three times, labeled with tape, packaged, boxed, and sent out to the hanger before we go.


Anonymous said...

Greetings from the 40f of the Pacific Nortwest,burr its cold here. I'm on my way to help you wash and label your beer bottles.

I was excited to see your blog and e-mail pop up on the net.You lucky dog,what a dream trip.

How thick is the ice under you?

In the Oregonian their was a report about oregon people using under equipment to listen on underwater eruptions,are you aware of these researchers?

Looking every day for your information.

Love,Russy Pussie

Anonymous said...

Hola from All Saints School!!

Glad to see you got there safely!

We'll be watching your blog to look for updates on how you are doing and on your research.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Greetings from All Saints 6th grade. We enjoyed reading your latest entry. Have you built your igloo yet? If so we'd love to see a picture. Blessings

Anonymous said...

Greetings from 6A, We are interested in the penguin. Did someone rescue it from the runway? Hope you enjoy your research.