Getting to Antarctica

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Part Four: Waiting around (for a short time) at McMurdo Station

Journal Entry:
McMurdo
Thursday Jan. 30

First day at McMurdo. What a fantastic place! Although we were dressed for the worst when landing in the plane, the doors opened to reveal incredible scenery under bright sun and cloudless blue sky. I could not imagine a more beautiful scene in the Rockies. We landed at 10 PM (on the 29th), but the sun was high and bright. The planes land at "Willy Field", which is on the permanent ice of the Ross Ice Shelf, over from the East side of Ross Island on whose western side is located McMurdo. Smooth landing, doors open, and it WASN'T COLD. Clamber onto the 'Terra' bus, a huge vehicle riding on giant fat tires. The ride back to McMurdo took about 20 minutes: the climb up onto the black volcanic dirt of Ross Island was a real contrast from the first few miles across the perfectly flat, white snow cover of the ice shelf. We disembark: I am assigned to a room in the so-called "Mammoth Mountain Inn"; on one side is another accommodation building, called the "Hotel California"; on the other side are the NSF Headquarters building and beyond that the Crary Lab, a complex of brand-new laboratories and offices.

From my window I am looking west: right underneath is the helicopter pad area, beyond that is the McMurdo Sound with patches of open water and then the Trans-Antarctic Mountains in the distance.

It's 36 degrees F outside with bright sun at midnight .. time to go to the canteen for 'MidRats' i.e. midnight rations. The canteen looks like any U.S. institutional cafeteria - trays, self-service hot and cold food, tabasco sauce on the tables. (but the food isn't Quite as good as at LBL). I'm hungry - didn't really eat since breakfast. Walked around - the place is deserted despite the brightness, because it's *actually* 1 AM. Took some pix and fell asleep quickly.

****I'll have little time to write - I have to prepare for departure to the Pole !!! SOON !!!

So what happened today?
In a nutshell:
Woke 9 AM, good sleep
Next door is the NSF office. They know all about me and are waiting!
Next door to that is the Crary Lab. Words can not describe how modern, well-equipped, and the VIEW!!!! Agh!! even better than the view from LBL, over the San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge. !!! Yes !! This is the place where you have died and gone to heaven, at least on days as crystal-clear as today. Across the frozen sound are ranges of the most incredible mountains, through ALL the windows!

Upstairs, a computer room. I log in to Netscape - there's my Web page!

They show me to my office. MY OFFICE ??? Of course, all science projects get an office.

Down the hall is Dr. Jane Dionne, the NSF Manager under whose program I am here. We talk - she's excited. I show her the Web page - she's VERY excited. I explain the educational context. "Tony", she says, "we've got to discuss this with the NSF Head Scientist who is at Pole, I'm going there in a couple of days, we'll all talk. This kind of live-from-the-field science is great." I take her picture. "Jane", I say, "you'll be on the Web tomorrow". and then the pitch ... "and with this kind of reporting, your projects can be on every Congressman's staffer's desk too .. live science, taxpayers' dollars at work".

We will talk more about it, but the impact is really there.

Lunch in the galley - good, and lots of it. Back to the Lab for, then repack some of my stuff so I don't haul everything to the Pole, not some things that I know I won't need there.

GREAT OPPORTUNITY - the Coast Guard icebreaker is tied up at the pier. It has been making a channel for the cargo ship that will come in on Monday. They have announced a 'recreational cruise' for a few hours this evening. Board at 6, return at 10. Great - it should be fun.

Go to the galley at 5:30, check Flight Board before going in. Chow, prepare to leave and walk down to the pier.

JUST TO BE SURE, check Flight Board again on way out. YIKES !!! - I am on the first flight out tomorrow !! - and 'bag drag' is due at 8 PM tonight! ('bag drag' means checking in with all your stuff so they can weigh you to determine the plane load.) But if bag drag is at 8 PM, I'll miss the icebreaker cruise. Boo and Double-Boo. I call : "bring your bags now", they say, "we'll weigh them in advance". But it's 5:50. "Hurry" they say.

Hurry ???? let's call it aerobics. Run back to dorm, stuff all bags: 4 of them, total weight probably a hundred pounds (include all ECW's = Extreme Cold Weather gear). STAGGER back to flight center, quarter of a mile. Heart rate increases 400 percent. Sweat profusely, almost expire. Stagger in. "Don't expire yet" they say "we've got to weigh you". -

"Now run down to the pier and you might catch the boat" - I did catch the boat. It was WONDERFUL. It was worth every minute of rushing. After half an hour my heart rate had subsided and the sweat throughout my long clothing had evaporated in the dry air. The cruise was spectacular, I hope the pix came out.

And now, I'm back in my room - it's almost midnight. I'll finish this report, go over to the lab to e-mail it and then try to sleep.

MY ALARM CLOCK BETTER WORK !!!!! 5:45 alarm clock. 6:30 check in, fully dressed in ECW's and ready to go.

I _ AM _ ON _ MY _ TO _ THE _ SOUTH _ POLE!


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Prepared by Tony Hansen and Tod Flak; last updated 30 Jan 1997