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.
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 ice, there are special rules for those roads that are different from gravel road rules. Here are some of the major rules:
Speed limit is 25 mph
All vehicles are four wheel drive and must remain in low range
Some vehicles have wide tires – only those may be on the snow/ice roads
You need to clean mud and dirt off of the vehicles before driving onto the ice
Use common sense
That training was pretty straight forward – nothing really new. There aren’t any police here either, so everyone has to be RESPONSIBLE for their own behavior. It works really well!
Snowmobile training was fun and provided some really good background on how to maintain the machines and do field repairs. It also gave us a chance to drive around on the snow and ice and see how they handled. Here’s what I learned at snowmobile school:
Speed limit is still 25 mph.
Check to make sure there is no ice built up in the machine and that all bolts are tight.
Check cables, switches, and anything else that could break and leave your stranded a long way from base.
Use proper radio check-out and check-in procedures.
Drive belts don’t break very often, but you need to know how to change one.
Always have a buddy snowmobile with you for safety.
The snowmobiles are work vehicles – just like a truck. They aren’t for recreation.
Don’t do anything crazy!
The real fun was driving around. Our instructor, Dale, is a long-time snowmobile rider and mechanic. He used to race snowmobiles too. He had lots of good tips, was very patient, and fun to learn from. Our class had six WISSARDS in it, so we all knew each other. Part of our time driving was really spent taking pictures of each other just for fun. I’ve included some of the pictures here.
I don’t know how many snowmobiles are here at McMurdo, but there are a lot of them. Many of the research groups that work out on the ice sheets and glaciers have one or two in their camps plus there are probably 60 or more here at the station. They are an important part of working in the Antarctic.
NOT!! One thing we had hoped we could do after getting snowmobile training was to take our videographer up to Cape Royds where there is a big penguin colony. The colony is about 23 miles north of McMurdo or about an hour by snowmobile. Unfortunately we couldn’t because. . . we needed ANOTHER training! None of us had taken Sea Ice Safety Training. Bummer number two was that the sea ice season is coming to an end so no more training is being offered. We also heard today that the sea ice routes will probably be closed in a week or so because the ice is starting to break down and thin out.