I hope that some of you check back here, because the big news is that the traverse to the final test site has taken off from McMurdo! They have a trip that will take them 10 to 12 days to complete. Check out the video link below- it's on facebook, so if you have school filters it may be blocked. I'm going to try to find it from a more accessible spot and put that in here too.
Some of the containers that will be towed across the ice during the traverse. Be sure to view the video link.
Yes, I did make it home. Here's a story of the trip and some pictures I took along the way.
Happy Holidays to everyone who followed along.
Going Home – Day One
Today is Thursday, December 13. I know it’s time to leave because I’ve gotten an email from housing telling me to clean my room and check out. I know because I got another email telling me to take my baggage to the MCC . I also know because of the many thanks, hugs, and goodbyes from other team members and people I’ve come to know at McMurdo. I know because when I look out across the frozen water of McMurdo Sound I see the Royal Society Range. The mountains are layered in clouds and fog. It’s like they are saying “we’re hidden from you, but we know you will remember us at our best”. And finally, I have my family waiting...
Hi to everyone! i just wanted to let you know that I've left McMurdo and am on the way home. Right now I'm in Sydney, Australia waiting for my flight to the U.S. It will be a 15 hour flight that takes me to Dallas, Texas. I'm NOT looking forward to the plane ride, but I'll be happy to be home. By the way - I'm writing this on December 14 in Australia, but it's only the 13th in the U.S.
I have several journal entries to post, but I'm going to do it when I'm at a better and more secure internet connection. Please check back over the weekend or on Monday for some new entries.
This tree was in the Christchurch New Zealand Airport. It reminded me that Christmas is on the way.
Today the sun was back out, the wind was calm and the snow and ice of McMurdo Sound had regained the brilliance that we have become accustomed to here. It’s my last day in Antarctica – tomorrow I will board the LC-130 and head back home. Until that time though, I’m going to enjoy the time I have left and see how the test site has changed since Monday.
Commuting to Work
I boarded the Delta at 7:15 with the drillers, a couple of electricians, John, Tim, Mike, and Betty of the WISSARD team, and Kathy, our excellent and good natured driver. A Delta is big, heavy, and not terribly fast, but it does get there. On the rough areas in the road it bucks and bounces, but its huge tires absorb a lot of the shock and smooth out the ride as much as possible.
This Delta is hauling people out onto...
The WISSARD project won’t be using helicopters, but many of the projects do. There is no way you can ignore them. They are thumping around in the sky all day long and the heliport area is just outside the Crary lab where I spend quite a bit of time. To learn more about helicopter operations in the Antarctic today the outreach team went down to visit with John at the heliport. John’s job is to schedule helicopter time, oversee the heliport, and make sure that cargo and equipment are ready to go. It’s an important job for the research teams because for many of them the only way they can get to their field areas is by air.
One of the many takeoffs from the McMurdo Heliport that occurs every day.
We Have A Need
One member of our outreach team is Dave Monk. Dave is a professional...
It occupies my mind, a foreign terrain
Lit up by the sun’s rays, 24 hours of light
Drawing my imagination south, pulling me toward them
The mountains rise through layered clouds
Strong, resolute, rising above ice,
In stark relief against a blue, cloud streaked sky.
Glaciers curve down mountain valleys
Coming into view from behind the peaks
Flowing down to the frozen sea
Rivers of ice, golden in the late-day sun
Looking smooth in the distance, but cracked, tortured, broken
At their toe Icy cliffs lift high above sea ice
An impasse, short lived as gravity wins
Pulling the ice always downward and out into the cold, frozen sea.
A Fish Tail
Dissostichus mawsoni?! What’s that? It’s also known as the Antarctic Toothfish, Antarctic Cod, and Chilean Sea Bass. It can grow to be up to six feet long and weigh over 300 pounds . They can live for 50 years or longer. This fish is also being taken from Antarctic waters, especially the Ross Sea area where I am, by commercial fishermen. Very little is known about this fish, but there are serious concerns that it is being fished faster than it can reproduce.
These are some of the bottom dwellers of the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea. The research lab aquarium has a small touch tank where visitors can reach into the (very!) cold water and touch the crustaceans and small fish that live here.
Several different researchers are studying this fish here at McMurdo Station. To...
Hi to everyone. We’ve had several busy days and I didn’t get anything written so I want to do a quick entry to update you on what we’ve been doing at WISSARD.
I always know which coat is mine - it's the red one!
Light Vehicle Training
If the students that are reading my journals are thinking “He’s lucky – no school”, it’s not true. There is a training course for everything here at McMurdo. I’ve taken Happy Camper (survival) Training, Environmental, Lab Safety, and Recreational training. The latest includes light vehicle (pickup driving!) and snowmobile training. It seems that everything is a little different here and you need to learn the McMurdo way of doing things.
Light vehicle was mostly about the driving rules here. Since many of the roads are on the frozen ocean or glacial...
Today the weather is not great. It's 28 degrees F, so not very cold, but winds are 19-20 mph and there are low-lying clouds and poor visibility with a chance of higher winds, so a lot of people that would normally be out in the field are staying here in town today. I saw this really cool item in the Crary Lab, so I took a picture of it. Can you guess what it is? If you think you know, put an answer in "Ask the Team".
The device that is being modeled by Ms. Jean Pennycook, a penguin researcher, will help her in her work to spread information about penguins here in Antarctica. This same device or others like it have been used world-wide. What is that thing!!!!????
This is a closeup of the mystery object. Does it help you figure out what it is?
This is another little PolarProblem to test your skills of observation. I’ve put in two pictures. One was taken today, the other was taken on November 11. Both days the visibility was limited because of the weather, but there has been a big change between November 11 and December 3. What is that change? Look carefully and tell me what’s different in an Ask The Team entry.
Looking South from the Chalet deck on 12-3-12.
Looking south from the Chalet deck on 11-11-12. Note how far you can see on this date. What else is different from the other picture?
Here is another pair of pictures to show you how much difference the weather makes in visibility. I took it over the helicopter operations area at 3:30 P.M. today. This afternoon a helicopter took off with a load hanging down under...
Thank you to everyone who joined me and Dr. Ross Powell this morning for our live webinar from McMurdo Station in Antarctica. If you missed it you can listen to the archive when its posted. Remember that if you have questions that didn't get answered during the live session, you can also ask them on-line.
A Polar Question
The pictures below show a large concrete block that is used to anchor a big radar dome that's sitting on a trailer. The blocks keep it from being blown away in high winds. I noticed something kind of odd about the block. Can you see what I was looking at? If you do, go to Ask The Team and write down what you observed and what it might tell you about the history of this block. Observation is a very important skill for scientists, especially for geologists who are...
Don't forget to log in to the PolarConnect webinar on Monday, December 3. Topics will include Antarctica Day and the WISSARD project. It starts at 10:30 Pacific Standard Time. Register and get information at
A flight came in Friday bringing more people that are joining the WISSARD Project. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – WISSARD is a big project. In fact, it’s the biggest project to occur in Antarctica since the IPY (International Polar Year) in 2007-2008. In total there will be forty scientists and support people working on it through January of 2013.
One of our new people is a professional videographer from Chicago, Dave Monk. I’m hoping to get some good tips and guidelines from him...
After The Move
I wrote a journal a couple of days ago about the WISSARD equipment being moved onto thicker ice. The move is about done. There is a little bit more adjusting to do, but everything is close to its final location. To help you understand how much equipment there is and how it works, I’ve put in some pictures and explanations below.
Picture 1 shows all the units sitting on the Ross Ice Shelf. There is over fifty feet of ice under all these containers. The containers numbered 1-5 are each forty feet long. Number six is twenty feet long. There are two more that you can’t see, but I’ll include them too. Remember that WISSARD will be drilling a 30cm hole (about 1 foot ) in diameter and 800 m deep (almost ½ of a mile) into the ice.
This is just part of...
This is just a fun entry to show you the weird and wonderful array of trucks, planes, and other transportation that you might see in Antarctica.
These are some of the common vehicles you see in Antarctica
Today was different. Our equipment is being moved or so across the ice to a new location. Currently we're on thin sea ice. It's about two meters (six feet) thick. We need more ice!!!! Our new site on the Ross Ice Shelf will have ice that is anywhere from twenty to 80 meters thick or 70 to 250 feet . We need thicker ice to test the hot water drill and the measurement instruments. The move had been in the plan all along - it was just time to do it.
Moving means loading smaller items onto sleds and getting the big containers which are already on runners ready to move. The science staff didn't have all that much to do. The drill team had most of the equipment to get ready. Another group, called the traverse team, was actually responsible for pulling the containers...
The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
This map shows the routes of Scott, Amundsen, Shackelton, and other explorers of the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration. Map from PBS
Antarctica remained a mystery until the early eighteen and nineteen hundreds when explorers first began looking for land in the far south latitudes. Among the most well known of the early expeditions was that of Admiral Sir James Clark Ross. In 1839 he sailed from England with two ships, the Erebus and the Terror. After a voyage through the Atlantic and on to New Zealand, he entered Antarctic waters on New Years Day, 1841. He continued south and was the first European to see what are now called Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror which were named for his two ships. The island on which these mountains are located was...
As an introduction I have a confession - I wish I'd known the opportunities that I'd have here in Antarctica before I got here. If I'd had the insight that I have now, I would have built my journal entries around the categories I've listed below:
WISSARD - my project. This is my primary focus and what I'm here to share with anyone who is reading the journal entries and asking questions.
Antarctica - the natural world of ice, sky, and rock. This is the overpowering image of the land that totally surrounds you and leaves you in awe every day.
McMurdo (Town) - this is a snapshot of the ways in which humans have used technology to be able to work and live in this harsh environment.
People - this one is very broad because there are so many different people, from different...
I spent the day working at the WISSARD site. Today Mike and I worked on finishing up some interior work on the workshop container (remember, our workshop is a 40 foot long shipping container that has been insulated and has heat and lights - it's pretty comfortable). I finished installing the shelving and some other pieces and parts. I also did some cleaning, sweeping, and sorting through things. Mike was setting up racks for the pipe that contains the instruments that will be sent down the hole. By the end of the day we had made the work area much more usable.
This orange container is 40 feet long. It's our workshop. Right now it is sitting on runners so it can be towed behind a tractor and moved around.
While I was going back to my dorm last night I had an idea for...
Most people have this vision of science that usually includes people in white lab coats, working in a lab with beakers bubbling away or peering into a microscope.
On the left is what most people imagine when they think of a science laboratory photo from NSF.org). On the right is a WISSARD laboratory. Our test tubes are bigger and made of stainless steel.
Some scientists may work that way, but on the WISSARD project we have a lot of really big equipment that is being used to collect data. Instead of looking into microscopes our scientists spent Saturday moving pieces of pipe and boxes of lead weights – not the normal picture of a scientist at work. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of pipe being moved because I was doing some of the work and not taking pictures! I did get the...
We had some science excitement today. A shipping container with most of the scientific data collection instruments was shipped from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo on yesterdays C17 flight. We opened it up today and started unloading the equipment – just as the weather took a major change from light winds to higher winds. The winds make working outside a lot harder because anything that’s not tied down will blow away. The condition levels went from three (good, do anything outdoors) to two (limit outdoor activity). The winds also closed down both the Sea Ice runway and Pegasus Field, the ice shelf runway. So yes, it was getting windy. [a side note – my roommate in the dorm is a mountaineer who has been trying to get out to his field site for three days now. Last night...
Going for an International Visit
Last night Mike Osmont (another WISSARD member) and I went over to Scott Base to see what it looked like. Scott Base is the New Zealand Antarctic Research Base and is just over the hill from McMurdo, maybe two miles away. It’s one of the few times you can visit another country and not need a passport to do it. People go back and forth between the two bases regularly, and every week there are shuttle runs between them to let people visit. The night we went over I think the U.S. group may have outnumbered the Kiwi contingent.
Scott Base is fairly small, but a nice layout. All the main buildings are connected to one-another with passageways so you don’t have to go outside to get from the dormitory area to the dining room or other public areas. It has...
Radio Communications in the Field
This entry is because of a question I got from my son Nick. He’s an amateur radio operator (ham) and president of the Clemson University Ham Club. Thanks for the question and idea for this entry Nick!
This is my son Nick trying to contact the South Pole in December 2011. Our antenna wasn't headed in the right direction, so he didn't make the contact. Maybe this year?!
Communication is important to the scientists here in Antarctica. They need to let people know where they are, send data back to the main base in McMurdo, ask for supplies and equipment, and keep in contact with someone so that they know if bad weather is coming or if they need help because of an injury. Safety is the number one reason for having radio communication – this can be a...
Today I visitted with Shelly Campbell in MacOps. MacOps is the communications center for McMurdo field operations. They monitor radio communications and provide the primary safety contact for anyone who is away from the station or in a distant field camp. The operators occupy a space on the second floor of building 165.
Building 165-home to MacOps. Can you tell that it's where radio communications happens?
While talking with Shelly I found that she has been working at either McMurdo or the South Pole for 16 years. Her background is mechanical engineering, but she found that she enjoyed the contacts she made with people through her communications work and as a result has been working in the communications operations that whole time. She said that the best people for this...
There was a total solar eclipse today that was over the southern Pacific Ocean. We were supposed to see part of it here at McMurdo Station but. . . . . It was cloudy and snowing, so you really could not make it out. I did take some pictures though and if you really think hard about it, you can see a small nick on the lower right edge of the sun in the center photo - use your imagination!
The three photos show the sun through the clouds before the eclipse (left photo), during the eclipse (center photo), and after the eclipse (right photo).
For a description of the eclipse, try this link: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2012/TSE2012.html
and this one for some images:
These three photos show the sun...
This entry has mixed content, but it’s a good example of what goes on during a science project.
Today we had a high temperature of 22 degrees and almost no wind! There were mud puddles in the road! It’s a heat wave!
It has warmed up enough for the ice to melt and form mud puddles around town.
I went out to the WISSARD set up site this morning. There was some electrical work being done and it was such a beautiful day that it just seemed like the place to be. When I got there I found that the generator was being serviced, so no power was available, but that gave some of the drill crew and our team engineer from DOER, Mike Osment, a chance to re-wire the power inputs to the instrumentation container (the big orange box in the picture below). Due to the high temperatures...
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