Special Guest, Melanie Miller
I know it's been a long time since any of you have heard from me... I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, just ventured back south for another season at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I got a new job this season, which has been a great change! I'm a Load Planner, which basically means that I figure out what cargo goes on flights to field camps (including South Pole) and north to Christchurch, New Zealand, and then plan out the best way to fit it on the plane so that it balances properly to fly. Luckily, as part of this job, I went to an Air Force-taught training class in Christchurch for 2 weeks before hitting the ice... and then, due to bad weather in McMurdo, got another free week in Christchurch due to 6 days of flight delays (and...
With the trip to Antarctica a year in the past, I have had more than enough time to reflect, get a new job, travel, reflect some more, and think of ideas for how to spread the word about the program and polar research in general. I'd have to say that things have been quite successful!
The weekend before Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, OR with some of the CReSIS team and speak on behalf of PolarTREC. Our session focused on the work CReSIS was doing in Greenland and Antarctica as well as the work PolarTREC has done to increase awareness of polar science. There were over 70 participants in the session demostrated hands-on activities related from a curriculum packaged titled "Ice, Ice, Baby," developed by CReSIS. These activities are available for...
We are home, safe and sound! I apologize for the delay in posting a wrap-up journal. I came home to some family matters that needed some attention and then it was time to head back to school. This journal serves to reflect a little bit on the time in Antarctica, and hopefully provide a few other avenues for continued outreach should it be of interest.
The trip as a whole has to rank at the top of a growing list of life experiences. It all started in New Zealand and technically still hasn't ended, and I loved/am loving every second of it! I'll provide a few pictures for your viewing pleasure so you may help remember the trip with me:
Near Lyttleton Harber in New Zealand.
Before leaveing Christchurch.
Bucketheads?! At Happy Camper (snow school).
Galley entrance at WAIS...
As my time wraps up here in Antarctica, I’d like to take a moment to reflect back on all the things that have happened. While not much data was collected during my time, if you have been reading the journals, you’ll know that there has been more than enough stuff to write about. The people, the research project, the team, the food, the facilities and of course the weather. All too much about the weather.
The people have been amazing, with so many stories from the ice and from home. The research projects they are working on promise to enlighten the way we look at the world around us, yes, all the way back in the states. If Antarctica weren’t here, things were be much different in many regards. Working with the team from Penn State was a true surprise. I was quite lucky with the...
We finally caught a flight to McMurdo from WAIS yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't all a simple flight back. The plane landed around 11:30am and was bringing fuel and freshies (fresh fruits and veggies) to the field camp. Once the fueling was complete it was time to board the plane. I was able to sit in the cockpit for the duration of the flight which was very nice to the take-off portion. After taxiing to the end of the ski way we got turned about the hit the throttle. After attempting to take off twice the pilot set the nose back on the ground and proceeded to turn around and try again. The second time he only tried lifting off once after giving himself a little extra room to gain some speed. Still not quite enough! After turning around a third time, he backed up about an extra hundred...
Location: About 20 meters to the NW of WAIS
So today was supposed to be my last day at WAIS, much like December 19 and 20. Once again weather was playing a factor, just messing with my head a little bit more. At least with the first two flights they were canceled long before I had started any packing. Not so much today. I took down the cot in the tent and packed up on my sleep kit items. It was time to go! About an hour before the flight was supposed to come in, a big CNX was written on the main camp board, CANCELED! Again. So what did I do? I took a shower!!!!! And shaved! The first of either since we left McMurdo eleven days ago. And now I smell pretty again. The clothes still smell a bit, but I smell pretty! Everyone else’s clothes smell a bit though too, so I fit in just fine!
Location: We’re pretty sure we’re at WAIS Divide though we could be wrong. WE CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!
Disclaimer: This is an attempt to recount the situation we have found ourselves in for the last 36 hours. Remember, this is just an attempt. Actual events may be described in better detail in person. Pictures do not do justice! Oh, there are none of those right now. They will be posted later, but they still won't do this storm justice!
After our last storm over the weekend, many camp staff had made note that this was the worst storm of the season. After this storm, this has moved to the worst storm of the 3-year history of this field camp. All started late Tuesday night after a C-130 brought in ten new residents. There was supposed to be another flight in that evening but it was later...
Another storm, another day inside!Location: The once again stormy WAIS Divide
The storm mentioned yesterday has in fact arrived, and is predicted to continue to strengthen. Today visibilities were around 200m and occasionally lower at times, caused by 20-25 knot winds. The winds are expected to increase this evening and into the day and evening hours tomorrow back to the 40 knots winds from the weekend storm. This should bring visibilities back down to 25m or less. Needless to say, with where we are in our science, which hasn’t been much, we can’t do anything outside. We got the holes drilled yesterday and have the explosives loaded and ready to go. The problem is the wind. When we detonate the explosives, the waves travel down through the ice and then bounce back. The sensors we have...
Location: The not so stormy WAIS Divide
Yesterday, as suggested by the previous journal, we spent most of the day digging out. It was like a huge avalanche buried all of our gear and we had to find it. Luckily the hardest part wasn’t finding our stuff since we had flagged everything when we got here. The tough part was digging out. This wasn’t a soft snow as you might imagine because all it does when the wind is blowing that hard the snow hits something and just stops, then continues to get more and more packed as the wind keeps blowing. Needless to say, it was quite a job. Our drill has side panels on it and somehow the snow made it through the panels and was compacted into every single crevasse! Not a good situation!
The Snowpacked Drill
The drill after being partially cleaned out...
Location: Still WAIS Divide, though it may look a little different.
WOW! After almost three days of being stuck inside, snow, wind, and blowing snow, the storm has given way to blue skies! You wouldn’t believe how the climate of the camp has changed in the last 12 hours! We’re also supposed to get our first flight in tomorrow after four days! Think of how you feel when you finally see the sun after almost of week of cloudy, rainy skies, and then multiply that by a lot!
The winds are still howling, though they have calmed quite a bit. You can see more than 50 feet in front of you now. The time has come to shovel/plow out! Camp staff that has been here since late August has commented that "this has been the worst storm of the season, so far.” The last journal posted had some photos of the...
Location: WAIS Divide
So the rumor that was posted on the journal from two days ago or so about the lowest pressure that had been recorded in some time was just that, a rumor. Then the forecast comes in yesterday that we’re supposed to have 30-40 knot winds for about 2 hours this morning. We were all thinking that it was a joke. And even then, it would only last for a couple hours. Let me tell you, we couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, the winds that kicked up this morning have not let up one bit, and the forecast now is for this to continue through at least noon tomorrow.
We missed a day for the journal entry because the storm knocked out our local dish for satellite comms and we’re still having a few issues with our Iridium phone. For those of you that emailed a couple days ago...
Location: WAIS Divide
Life at WAIS is really quite nice! Very laid back, easy going, and people still get work done. Why can’t every day at work be like that? We haven’t been able to do much setup today because all of our stuff is packed on pallets and weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. We’re waiting for the fork lift to help out but they are waiting for the next two rounds of cargo flights to come in. Those flights are waiting to the weather to clear. We are watching what appears to be a major storm move into the area. We have UNCONFIRMED reports that this is one of the lowest pressure drops that they’ve seen here in some time. Some time could mean a variety of things, but as of now these are just rumors floating around. We’ll give you more updates as they become available. We have to say we’...
Location: WAIS Divide, GPS to follow
Welcome to WAIS
Arrival at WAIS Divide, the sign outside the galley.*
Welcome to WAIS Divide, a truly amazing place. We already know what you're going to say when you hear the description, "how is that exciting?" And let us just say, if you were never at peace in the world, then WAIS is the place to be! We had heard that this is a big white nothing out here and they were right! There is nothing out here, AMAZING! No mountains, no sounds! When you look off in the distance, you see nothing! Nothing but a sea of ice and the horizon! BEAUTIFUL! There literally are no words to describe the feeling of being out here. At first, the feeling was a little weird, but it didn't take long to really fall into place!
Ocean of Ice
A true ocean of ice...
There isn't much new information today as we have been spending time getting ready to leave for the field tomorrow. We did leave station for a while today and head out to the sea ice to practice using the drill. This is a hot water drill that uses hot water and gravity to make a hole in the ice. We will be making 3in holes 35m deep to drop our explosives. We used a few sizes of bits today which you will see from the pictures. You can see more pictures in the photo gallery.
Luke enlarging the hole using the middle sized drill bit.
Knut and Brandon decided since Sunday is considered a day off in McMurdo that they would take a leisurely stroll on cross country skis (Brandon's first time) over Arrival Heights to the Castle Rock Loop Trail. They decided to bring us a long, and luckily, we returned to write about it!
The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. These pictures might be worth that, but there aren't a thousand words that could describe the beauty of this place once you move off station and truly head into the back country of the Antarctic. We'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Be sure to check out the photo gallery for more photos!
Castle Rock Trailhead sign.
The Royal Society Range, a portion of the Transantarctica Mountains!
Gumby and Ms. Baker with Mt. Erebus in the...
You’re walking along the edge of a glacier, four people tied together along a rope and all of a sudden your end tightens up, you can feel tension on the line, and you start to slide. You’re not sure what is happening but your first instinct is to fall down, dig your feet and ice ax in and stop from sliding further than you already have. Once you get stopped, and everything appears to be stable, you look around and check your teammates. You only see two of them, and there are supposed to be three. Someone is missing!
Don moving his harness to the anchor line. This helps to prevent him from being pulled into the crevasse.
Someone has fallen into a crevasse! Making the rescue!
This is just an example of one of the scenarios we were put in during our day-long crevasse...
Another day in the land of the ice. And another day where flights were being canceled left and right. That makes two days in a row. The weather hasn’t been particularly bad, but when visibilities are low, planes aren’t allowed to fly. This seems like a good place to talk about the weather conditions down here, and what happens if and when things get ‘bad’.
Normal, good weather. Normal weather for Antarctica that is.
Condition TWO: Any one of the following is true.
Wind speed between 48 and 55 knots.
Visibility better than 100 feet but less than 1/4 mile.
Wind-chill between -70F and -100F .
Condition ONE: Any one of the following is true.
Wind speed greater than 55 knots.
Visibility less than 100 feet.
Wind-chill worse than -100F.
So, just because we’re in...
Today we headed to the field and got a taste of what life is going to be like for the next two weeks, starting this weekend. Well, two weeks for us. The rest of the team is continuing on further into the field. Ms. Baker and I have to get back so you can have your teacher back! If you were going to be working at one of the deep field camps, and had never been to Antarctica before, or had been away for some time, you were required to attend a two day course on survival basics known as Snowcraft I, Snow School, or Happy Camper School.
The class began at the Field Services Training Program (FSTP, or "F-Stop") office in McMurdo. Here we got a few lessons at FSTP on cold weather medicine, operation of VHF and HF radios, how things are done when working around helicopters, and...
After getting the first good night’s sleep since making it to the ice, we awoke to the coldest temperatures yet, snow and wind. There was a light dusting of snow on station and plenty of wind. What a great time to start work outside! We began the day by unpacking the large hot water drill that we will be using in the field to drill the holes for our explosives, yes, explosives. I know you all want to hear about what we’re going to blow up, so make sure you stick around for later in the week. Friday and Saturday we’re going to take a closer look at the research we’re conducting once we make it to the WAIS field camp.
Robin explaining some of the drill upgrades from last season.
After unpacking the drill and learning about a few of the new features upgraded from last year, Huw...
Life on the ice. Let’s see. The sun NEVER SETS! At first I must admit it is quite disorienting. We were up and around all day yesterday, finding things, learning our way around and finally decided to head in. It was 1am!
Mactown at 1am
Outside in Mactown at 1am. Why is it so bright?
At the station there are all the things you would find in a small town. Bathrooms, coffee house, gym, greenhouse, cafeteria, etc. We have options for 3 full meals a day, and a forth is called Mid Rat, or midnight rations, if you’re awake and hungry. People work all hours of the day here since the sun never drops below the horizon during the summer. This helps to keep temperatures and is the main reason the field season is during this time of year. The only way you would ever be able to tell what...
We made it! After an extra afternoon in Christchurch, we made our flight to the ice this morning. First, a little information from the last day in New Zealand before hitting the ice. We’re not really much for doing the tourist thing, but today, we wanted to get out of the city. We were so busy taking pictures of the scenery; we forgot to ask the other folks traveling with us to get a photo of us. Anyway, the trip was a little over 3 hours, taking us east outside of town to see the Lyttelton Harbor. It was absolutely gorgeous! Make sure you check out our photo gallery for more pictures.
The evening was spent making sure we had all of our supplies for the early morning wakeup. We were up and ready for the bus to the CDC at 4:30am local time. I will add, especially for...
(5:30am) OK, time to go. We will write more later. So far this morning, in 5 minutes time, maybe less actually, we were told the flight out of Christchurch was delayed indefinitely, and then we got a call that we're going! Crazy. We'll send more when we are settled somewhere. Wishing you all the best!
~Gumby and Ms. Baker
(11:00am) No flight, so that gives us plenty of time to tell you about another day in Christchurch. Such is the life of Antarctic travel.
Yesterday was another laid back day in the city. We had an appointment at 1pm to get our clothing tried on a checked for tears, etc. We're issued to orange dufflebags with all sorts of Extreme Cold Weather gear.
After we get everything out of the bags, try it on, check it, we then get to cram it all back in and hope it...
Leaving at 1:15am on Monday from Kansas City and arriving at 10:30am on Wednesday in Christchurch, New Zealand certainly was a bit odd, especially after not really being on a plane for nearly two days. That’s what happens when you cross the International Date Line. So as I sit here at the Windsor B&B, it is 9am on Thursday, meaning that for those of you back in Kansas, it is 2pm on Wednesday. Kind of strange, I know.
Gumby and I have had a great time once we were able to settle in for a bit and take a walk around the city. We visited the Botanical Gardens, nearly 10,000 acres of winding paths, trees, flowers, and some remote controlled sail boats. I asked them for a ride, but it seemed there was some kind of race going on. We then went next door to the Canterbury Museum to...
Introducing! Ms. Baker and Gumby, two well traveled explorers have again reunited to take this once in a lifetime trip to the ends of the earth.
Bio: Ms. Baker
Ms. Baker is 4 years old and has made her living riding in the rear view mirror of one 2004 Honda Accord. She enjoys long airplane flights, being crammed into darks places to fit in the luggage, and seeing sights some will only dream of! She has traveled to Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center for the launch of STS-118 and the regional NSTA Conference in Detroit.
On a trip a couple years ago to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Ms. Baker met a true friend, Gumby. They have been traveling the states together for nearly 3 years and are now making the journey of a lifetime!
Gumby began his career as an...
California Trail Junior High hosted the second in a series of local science nights to help promote and generate interest in PolarTREC and science in general. This event was open to family members of all ages free of charge. We had over 250 people in attendance with 28 presenters, and for the first event of this type at our school, I'll have to say, I was very impressed. It simply paved the way for bigger and better events in the future.
I'm not sure about this!?
Student at science night has a snake around her neck a little unsure about what to think.
We had a wide range of activities from live animals, rockets, robots, ice, astronomy observations and polar research. The next day Cheri Hamilton from CReSIS came in and did a workshop with students about the center's...
This site is supported by the National Science Foundation under award 0956825. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this site are those of the PIs and coordinating team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.