Posts tagged ‘Antarctica’

November 29, 2014

Heavy lavender clouds over the ice…

A few Sundays ago we walked to Hut point, just outside of town.

Royals and Clouds

 

Hut Point Footsteps

It was windy, smoky streaks of snow filtering through the lava rocks, old compacted footsteps growing from the path on little pedestals.

Hut Point 2

 

Hut Point 1

 

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Adult seals with their pups were loafing on the ice, not worried about the wind.

November 21, 2014

McMurdo 101

The US has three stations in Antarctica, and this year I’m working in McMurdo, the largest station (and formerly just a transitional jumping point to me when I was trying to get on a flight to the South Pole). It’s on Ross Island, and we fly here on a C-17, Airbus, or LC-130 from New Zealand.

hello from McMurdo

It’s a big station, around a thousand people in the height of summer (ie, now). There are dorms, admin buildings, a firehouse, power plant, water distillation plant, wharf, a store, three bars, three gyms, warehouses, and a ton of science (glaciology, marine biology, aeronomy and astrophysics, earth science, ocean and atmospheric studies). Three runways and a helicopter pad. And like a big old city there is above-ground water, sewer, telephone, and power lines.

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It was really cold.

It was pretty cold for a bit at the beginning of the season, though nothing compared to Pole. Lots of 50-knot winds, really poor visibility, and -30F.

It’s not too cold out right now, maybe 20F above zero. It smells like melt outside and there is milky mud water streaming down the hills toward the bay.

The photo below shows MacTown at 3am–the shadow across town, cast by Observation Hill, is all of the brief  “sunset” we get these days.

MacTown from Ob Hill

Building 211, McMurdo, Antarctica

This is my pretty little house…

 

...and my pretty little room...

…and my pretty little room…

 

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A construction zone or a giant Lego set.

In town, it’s kind of like living in a construction zone, loaders and pickup trucks driving everywhere, gravel roads, exposed fuel pipes and spools of cable. But the magical thing about being here is all the stuff outside of town–hikes and preserved huts from the old Antarctic explorers and ice caves.

Stay tuned for some of the icier stuff, coming soon!

November 15, 2014

Ice.

Somehow leaving makes you love it more.

Late fall in the midwest: cold wind on tired oak trees. Sunday night dinner, soup and wine and chocolate.

The last year has been a flurry of daily airports, new jobs, big decisions. Weddings. Funerals. Moving out again, pulling up the tiny roots. Finding myself back in the MSP airport, getting ready for 30+ hours of travel, deploying to Antarctica via New Zealand.

It’s good to be back.

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Big Reds Walk to Iceberg

April 15, 2013

How to Get a Job in Antarctica 2013-2014: Links

Elissa moves 55-gallon drums of fuel with a tracked loader

Elissa moves 55-gallon drums of fuel with a tracked loader

 

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for info on how to get hired for a position in Antarctica this coming season, and I have great news for you: Bill Spindler has very nicely compiled a page of links with all the subcontractors.

Check out the whole post here: http://www.southpolestation.com/trivia/ncs/jobs.html

If you’ve read anything at all about the hiring, you probably understand that Lockheed Martin is the main contractor, and there are a bunch of subcontractors for different departments. What that means is that there isn’t a streamlined collection of all jobs on one webpage; this is not necessarily a step down though. If you applied through Raytheon during the last contract, you will remember that their webpage kind of sucked. And by “kind of sucked,” I mean that it made you want to gouge out your eyes with a shovel.

I can’t speak to how the application process is on most of these sites: the one I applied through was pretty easy. If you’ve already applied, let us know how the experience was for you in the comments section.

Lynnette mapping 55 gallon drums

Lynnette maps 55-gallon drums on the berms

 

Trudy Lyn training us on the finer points of chainsaw safety

Trudy Lyn trains us on the finer points of chainsaw safety

 

Here is the abbreviated link list, with companies hiring for on-ice positions. If you have any confusion about what to do or how to apply after you get to a website or why you would even want to go to Antarctica in the first place, just back up a minute and go to Bill Spindler’s website.

Lockheed Martin: Program Management and Integration, Site Management, Functional Area Leadership, Technical Management & Administration (TM&A), Science and Technical Project Services (S&TPS), Information Technology and Communications (IT&C), Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) and Transportation and Logistics (T&L)

PAE: Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), Transportation and Logistics (T&L).

GHG: On-site Information Technology and Communications (IT&C).

University of Texas Medical Branch: Medical Services

Best Recycling: Waste

Gana-A’Yoo: Food Services, Housing & Janitorial Services, Retail & Postal Services.

April 12, 2013

Gorgeous Photos from the End of Summer: McMurdo, Antarctica

Deven is behind the lens again–check out these stunning photos from the end of the summer season and vessel offload.

The icebreaker vessel comes in at the end of the summer and is the main way cargo for all departments gets onto the continent. The lovely ship is full of all kinds of incoming cargo, from ramen noodles, beer and condoms to turbochargers and hydraulic hoses. The logistics folks (Cargo and Materials) are responsible for offloading and basically warehousing the cargo; at the beginning of the next summer, South Pole’s cargo gets packed up and sent in. This means the supply chain is really long: it takes a year or two for normal cargo to arrive at Pole.

stunning blue

 

cloud ice

 

floating ice

 

storm brewing behind icebreaker

You can see a storm front moving in on the horizon!

 

milvans

Here’s the vessel, loaded up with milvans.

 

frosty cables

After a storm, everything facing upwind was covered in ice.

 

frosty loaders

…including the loaders.

 

hut point

Hut Point Peninsula, just a short walk from MacTown.

 

mcm ice

 

mcm sound

 

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The Nathaniel B. Palmer (a science vessel, I think) and Mount Erebus

 

pegasus ice runway

The Pegasus Ice Runway as seen from Arrival Heights

 

ship and scott hut

The rigging on the icebreaker, with Scott’s Hut (built in 1911). Deven says about this one: “Future past. I love the little Scott hut in the lower right. The things that place has seen!”

 

icebreaker and beautiful ice

The thing I love about these photos is how well they illustrate the different personalities of the sea ice: marbled and fractured and chunky and smooth.

If you want to see some amazing aurora photos from the same photographer, check out this post.

January 24, 2013

Flight missing from South Pole

I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who prays, but if you are, maybe say one for these folks.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1319018–three-canadians-missing-on-flight-over-antarctica

Three Canadians are missing on a Twin Otter flight that was going from South Pole to Terra Nova Bay, an Italian base on the coast. Their plane went down and the emergency locator beacon has been activated but bad weather is making the rescue search difficult.

Living in a heated station in Antarctica makes it easy sometimes to forget that it is still a pretty dangerous place to be. I hope these guys are safe.

***

The wreckage of this flight has been located, and memorials are being held around the continent. Rachel, one of my very best friends from Pole, wrote some poignant words about the tragedy:

Such sad news for the Antarctic family…it might be hard for many people to understand, but the continent is like one big family. I often feel like the world could truly learn a lot from Antarctica. All the stations seem to experience the same things…to get to station is always a long flight or a long boat ride, we all live in cramped quarters, we all have to deal with extreme temperatures and learning to work in the cold, we conserve water and recycle everything, eat three year old expired food, we are all here for research, which is often shared amongst nations, most research being performed at any one station is usually a collaborated effort among many, most stations medical and fire is volunteer, and during the winter we share a film festival were we can relate to each video, because they always represent the many similarities that we all go thru instead of the differences.
We are connected in so many great ways that I won’t be able to do it justice, but one of the other ways we are connected is in sadness. When a helicopter went down a couple years ago at another base, an American C-17 was just departing McM and immediately diverted to search for survivors. There was no “bureaucracy” to figure out who would pay for it, or if it was allowed. It just happened. When a fire broke out at a base on the Antarctic peninsula, research ships from other nations immediately came to get the survivors. When the fire happened last year, I was in the midst of fire school before heading to Palmer. We were all stunned. The reality that that could be “us” was overwhelming. While at Palmer I was on the fire team. In that fire the two people that died were on their fire team that had gone back into the fire to try and shut stuff off to prevent further damage to the station. When this plane went missing two days ago, it again reminds me how we are all connected. Kenn Borek Air flys twin otters and baslers for many countries here on the continent. Their pilots are the last people we see at Pole before winter starts and the first ones we see to start summer. I don’t know if I have ever met them personally, but it doesn’t matter…they were part of the Antarctic family and their loss will be felt across the continent. The pilots at KBA have flown to some if not the most remote places in the world. They have landed in places never touched before by humans…they have rescued people from the South Pole where the temps were so cold their skis froze to the ground, and they bring us freshies. On their first flight to Pole each spring, they always bring freshies. I don’t even like most freshies, but it is such a kind gesture when they know it has been about 8 months since we last tasted a banana.
So keep their families in your thoughts tonight…I’m sure most “Antarcticans” will do the same.

September 12, 2012

I can see your breath…

Remember when I told you about the 300 club?

I love this photo. The sun is coming up at South Pole Station, and it’s still a hundred degrees below zero.

 

Photo of Sven by Jay Studer.

August 30, 2012

Night Sky: McMurdo, Antarctica

When it comes to night sky, it seems like South Pole generally has McMurdo beat. It’s so much darker, so much further South, and the aurora activity seems more common. However, every now and then, MacTown gets a beautiful show, and on top of it, the landscape there is so much more compelling. These pictures are from Deven Stross, who worked with me as a Materialsperson last summer at South Pole, and whose website you can visit here; keep in mind though, he’s still stuck at McMurdo with not-so-great internet, so most of the new photography isn’t showcased just yet.

These photos are from July, before the sun had begun to rise.

Time lapse photo with a human subject: standing still for 30 seconds at -26F.

Here is a more recent photo, where the sun is illuminating the nacreous clouds over Castle Rock. It’s just so beautiful, don’t you think?

July 19, 2012

Antarctica on Google Street View!

Sometimes I seriously love the internet. This is so cool:

Certain parts of Antarctica are now available for you to visit from the comfort of your own computer. Despite the dorky  “armchair explorer” title given by the articles about this, it is really a pretty neat thing. My favorite was Scott’s Hut, which is a 10 minute walk from McMurdo Town and full of polar explorer artifacts–I never got to go inside while I was there but was able to look around here! I had never heard of the World Wonders Project before this, but it’s really interesting; panoramic, navigable, street-level images of world heritage sites. Seriously. Go check it out: http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/worldwonders/.

This is the Dark Sector on street view, the off-station site that is home to many of the research projects including South Pole Telescope, Bicep and IceCube a little further down the road.

Here is the Ceremonial South Pole view:

If you’re not familiar with Google Street View, when you go to the actual page you can click on the white arrows to move yourself around within the photo’s span.

Read more about this here, here and here. Well.. the last link is a bit sketchy, due to its photo caption “Penguins in the South Pole.” Do your homework, people.

July 11, 2012

Dazzling Winter Photography from the South Pole

Midwinter has just recently passed at the South Pole–the sun has been down for months, ambient temperatures have dropped below -100F multiple times throughout the season, and life in the name of science is presumably carrying on as normally as it possibly can when you are utterly and completely stuck in one of earth’s most unwelcoming locations.

I am not sure whether I have it in me to winter at South Pole–I want to, but in a way that is more abstract than real right now. On one hand, you are quite literally trapped, come hell or high water or cancer or fuel shortages. As much as the program does to screen for potential illness (physical and mental); and as much fuel as is saved in the emergency caches; despite the fact that the power plant runs four generators and that there is enough frozen food to last for a decade, I really don’t know how I would feel when the last plane of summer left. Maybe I would feel finally free, relieved that the summer contractor population was gone. Maybe I would slowly succumb to massive hypochondria. Not sure. Now, I’m being facetious, but the thought really does worry me a little.

The thing that draws me back to maybe-wintering is the night sky, the aurora australis and the neverending stars and the moon. Every picture I see reinforces the possibility.

Sven Lidstrom is a winterover who is responsible for the day to day running of the neutrino detector/telescope IceCube. For as many times I’ve heard and read the purpose of the detector and the definition of a neutrino, I think I’ll let their website explain: “IceCube is a particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. The IceCube telescope is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature.” Sven was also my Scott-tent-mate for Happy Camper Training, which you can read about here.

These photos are all by Sven; please do not use them without permission and credit.

South Pole elevated station by moonlight and by Southern Lights:

TDRSS and GOES, the satellite dishes that link South Pole to the rest of the world:

Winterovers checking the fuel levels in the off-site emergency fuel cache at the End of the World:

This last photo is one of my favorites: these are the jamesway tents we lived in, which are slated for demolition sometime in the next few years, completely drifted under by blowing ice:

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