Midway Weather

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

semper gumby [always flexible]

I got notice to get to the terminal building yesterday morning for a flight 'right now' to Byrd Camp.  That got postponed.  Then yesterday I was told that all flights were cancelled to next week since air operations were being relocated from the seasonal sea ice runway to the farther/permanent landing strip at Pegasus.  So I wouldn't be going to Byrd at all, but straight to PIG next week.  Now I am manifested for later today to Byrd.

oldest building in town

I was delighted to find the 'coffee shop' in town.  It is located in the oldest remaining structure here [pre-1960] in an old windowless quonset style building.  They serve $1 lattes, free tea and $3 glasses of wine.  Internet is free, but slow.  An attached wing is stocked with plush couches arranged towards the big screen TV that has weekly movie showings and is available for people to pop in DVDs.
It is SO MUCH FUN!  I got to chat with one of the New Zealand demo crew here this morning over a cappachino.  They were brought down to blow up a bunch of old buildings; and for that kiwis are perfect.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sunset tonight: FEB 21, 2012

Today was [hopefully] the end of 'field training' before deployment to field camp.  We went out onto the ice sheet for crevasse rescue training with the SAR team.  The ride in the Haggland was bumpy, but fun.  Once out on the ice, the view was utterly spectacular.  With the clear skies we were able to watch the off-gassing from Mt Erebus, which gurgles only 20 miles from town [background in picture].
While I was out on the ice sheet, I noticed that the sun didn't get anywhere near the horizon.  Back in town I checked the TV monitors for weather and saw that sunset tonight: FEB 2012.  What a different world.

more fun Antarctica signs

Evidence that the folks at the waste sorting barn are having too much fun

The 'unofficial' logo of the Berg Field Center [BFC] where all field gear is checked out.  Last week I got TWO -40' sleeping bags and several duffels worth of gear issued there.  Oh, and it totally IS staffed with a bunch of rockin mountain-mommas

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Historic walkabout

For Thanksgiving we were granted a 'long weekend' [Saturday and Sunday] here at McMurdo Station.  I put the time to good use and was able to take a tour of the Discovery Hut from Robert Scott's 1901 Expedition.  It was absolutely magical to be able to tour the 110 year old building that sits EXACTLY as it was last left [there was still seal blubber sitting in the frying pan].  What a treat!

antarctic signs

It is rather evident that people here have lots of free time [and energy] that they put to good use.  Below is some of the more entertaining signs I've found around town.

Antarctic 'Chrome Bimbo' mudflap

Saturday, November 26, 2011

International Athlete

Yesterday [Saturday] was the official Thanksgiving celebration here at McMurdo. Part of the festivities included an organized 5k Turkey Trot over to the New Zealand base and back.  Fortunately I didn't have to worry too much about overheating, something I usually have a hard time with in distance races.

Always Sunny in Antarctica [in November]

24 hour a day sunlight here on the ice and destined to stay that way for the next few months.  Still meeting fascinating people every day, though life in town is getting old quick.  It doesn't seem natural to be at the end of the world - stuck in a populated industrial outpost.
Just got word that I may ship to Byrd camp in a few days to staff the medical tent there before the PIG camp opens.  Can't wait to get into the field.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Condition One [CON1] is the strongest weather class on the continent.  It is defined as:
visibility < 100 ft
wind > 55 kts
windchill < -100F
During these conditions travel is prohibited, even between buildings.

This last Thursday and Friday I had the privilege of attending Snow Survival School [AKA Happy Camper].  It is a field course designed to give those going into the field the opportunity to learn how to camp and survive in the snow.  For most of the participants, it was their first time using a camping stove or setting up a tent.  For me, it was going to be a nice couple of days out of town.

On Thursday, while we were attempting to build a snow wall and kitchen, the weather deteriorated.  Just after the tents were put up, we noticed that the visibility was all but gone.  Our instructor had us gather in the 'kitchen' [hole in the snow] to discuss our situation.
We had stumbled into CON1 weather for our Happy Camper.  She mentioned that this was something they tried to avoid, but now we 'were going to get a unique experience.'  And indeed we did.
For the rest of the evening I got to listen to the other campers' stories; our guide just spent last summer as a mountain ranger on Denali.  Two of the campers were veteran contractor pilots that have flown the twin otters and DC-3s all over this continent and the rest of the world.  The researchers from Denmark, Germany and Sweden were happy to talk about their projects.
Eventually I wandered over to my 'survival trench' and tucked into the -40' sleeping bag for a blissful nights sleep.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cabin Fever

The folks 'round here certainly have a different way of looking at the world.  This weekend is one of the big annual events; something of a counter point to Burning Man.
So far I've met a plumber that spent two years as a contractor in Iraq, a weather observer that bounces between summers here and Greenland, a secretary that has been here for 14 years and a mechanic that is going out with one other person to spend the season maintaining a 'runway' with a snowmobile for twin otters to refuel out of their 55 gallon drums on the ice.
I had never imaged that I'd be able to mingle and work amongst a group of people this different and amazing.  Thanks Melinda!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Arrived 77.88' South

Amazingly, I arrived on the first attempt.  It was a relatively uneventful 3800km flight from Christchurch to McMurdo in the belly of a C-17.  I was lucky enough to be assigned an outside wall seat that had much more leg room.
Our flight had a 'DV' [Distinguished Visitor] that turned out to be the King of Malaysia; his 5 year term in office is soon coming to a close and he'd always wanted to come to Antarctica, so the US gave him a ride.  I had to make sure that 'Relax, don't do it' wasn't on my mp3 player playlist.
Due to train here for the next week, then fly onto Pine Island Glacier.  It can't come soon enough.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Set course for 180' South

Ready to make sail for Antarctica.

Couple 60# duffels
5# coffee
5# chocolate
Change of underwear
Irrational footwear choice

I'm good to go.  See you on the other end.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mailing Address

Mail can be sent to:

[name], RPSC
c/o McMurdo Station
Pine Island Glacier Field Camp
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

Just be forewarned that it can take up to 8 weeks to deliver.  Also, it is domestic postage [?]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

back in the good ol' days

Above is a "Field Medical Officer" that was stationed close to the camp I'm headed to.  Picture is of him taking out his own appendix.  Atta Boy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

no cell reception

I'll be stationed at Pine Island Glacier [PIG]. we'll be approx 2,000 km from McMurdo - the nearest field station.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

what to expect, when you're expected [at the South Pole]

I was just sent a fantastic link that explains what a 'typical' deep field camp will be like.  Mine will be a bit 'more rustic' though than the one mentioned.


Antarctic planning

Just got word about what to expect during my three months 'out on the ice' at a deep field camp in Antarctica

-what laundry services are available?
At McMurdo Station, we have full laundry facilities with washers and
dryers.  At Pig, you will have an old style hand washer and ringer - the
old wash board and bucket type.  Clothes will dry on a clothes line
above the tent heaters.  Most people don't do laundry very often.  You
many want to bring 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear, so you don't
have to worry about doing laundry too often.

what bathing facilities will I have access to?
We should have some basic showers set up at some point, but it will take
2-3 weeks before they are built.  These will be a small camping like
shower, so pretty basic.  People generally shower once a week, since you
need to shovel a lot of snow to melt for water for a shower.  You can
shower as often as you want, as long as you shovel enough snow.  Lots of
people take sponge baths and use wet wipes to clean up.

Sounds 'interesting' ...