December 24, 2007 Christmas Eve at McMurdo!
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 yards or so to try again. This time just as we were reaching the end of the ski way, we slowly took off and rose gently into the sky. I've never seen anything quite like it and sitting in the cockpit made it all the more interesting. At least I had a clue what was going on though. The other passengers in the cargo hold of the plane didn't have a clue. It was later determined that there were no mechanical problems, it came down the physical properties of the snow. It was too 'sticky.' There was added friction that caused the plane to need a little extra room to achieve speeds to take off. The rest of the flight was extremely uneventful and quite smooth!
WAIS ended up being a fabulous experience, weather and all! Everyone we've talked to has informed me that we truly have had an authentic Antarctic experience! As mentioned in the previous journal we were able to get some science done and some data collected after weeks of preparing and waiting for the weather. The best part was that once the rest of the camp was finished working for the day it was time for us to start. We had to wait until the camp was fairly quiet because all of the normal daily activities added vibrations that traveled through the snow to our sensors creating background noise. The first night we were detonating shots until midnight, and the second night we were out in the field until a little after 10pm.
We arrived back in McMurdo just in time for the town Christmas party. There were light snacks and tons of people. Anyone who was anyone was at this party. 1,000 people in the middle of Antarctica celebrating the season! We're glad we made it back! Today is our Christmas dinner! Ah, so excited! The funny part is that because of the large number of people we actually have to eat in shifts. There are three meals being served starting at 3pm and rotating every two hours. We hear the food is quite tasty!
Over the next few days while waiting for the return flight north we plan on taking it easy and exploring things around McMurdo a little more. There are still a few day hikes that we've yet to take. Also, the sea ice is starting to break up and from certain points around camp you can see the ice edge. The closer it gets the better chance of seeing wildlife! We have our fingers crossed. We did get to see about two dozen seals yesterday as we were driving back from the airfield to McMurdo. They were too far away to take pictures, but we at least saw something! That has to count a little anyway.
For more information and education outreach, please visit the following links.
Kansas City Star – Our Changing Climate
WAIS Divide Education Outreach – Tufts University (http://waisdivideoutreach.blogspot.com)
TO THE WAIS RESIDENTS:
Thank you for an amazing experience. It truly was the opportunity of a lifetime and I am very pleased that I was able to spend twelve days with you all. You certainly have some amazing stories and experiences to share about! I hope hear from you and will anxiously be following the ongoing science at WAIS.
THANK YOU! What a great trip. It was a pleasure to meet and work with you all and have you show me the ropes around the ice. I know the students enjoyed hearing from some of the scientists on the ice conducting research. Well, trying to conduct research anyway. It was truly a fantastic adventure! Keep in touch and best of luck in the deep field. I will be looking forward to seeing and reading about your results!