Polar Gigantism in Antarctica Journals

C-130 at Pegasus
Yours truly, grabbing a last snapshot with the Transantarctic Mountains and Winter Quarters Bay. Final departure from McMurdo Station happens more or less in the reverse order of arrival on Station. Having packed up our personal luggage, everything but Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear and a small carry on bag is weighed and dropped off with cargo handlers the night before our flight - the aptly named "Bag Drag." In full ECW gear the following morning, Art Woods, Bret Tobalske, Steve Lane, Caitlin Shishido, and I (Amy Moran remained behind for a couple of days to wrap up a few experiments) checked in to the passenger "terminal" in building #140. Saying goodbye to friends and colleagues who came out to see us off, and with passports and lunches in hand, we boarded "Ivan the Terrabus," our...
Bret with Crary Truck
Closing down a field season and "checking out" of McMurdo is a multi-day, orchestrated frenzy of disassembly, packing, shipping, and inspection. All of this needs to go. Closing down a field season and "checking out" of McMurdo is a multi-day, orchestrated frenzy of disassembly, packing, shipping, and inspection. Over the previous nine weeks, the six of us have occupied dormitories, laboratories, environmental rooms, and dive locker space. Before we are cleared to "redeploy" to North America, all of these spaces need to look as though we were never there. With our December 3 departure date fast approaching, the team began the departure process in earnest, finishing up experiments, returning sea spiders to their collection sites, and recovering instruments deployed in the...
Chalet flags
Thanks to all who participated in our Antarctica Day PolarConnect Event. If you missed it, you can watch it below!
helicopter unloading
The team is lead out to our waiting Bell 212 "Twin Huey" helicopters for our flight to Granite Harbor. McMurdo Station Helicopter Operations - "Helo Ops" for short - flies five vehicles emblazoned with the red and blue color scheme of the US Antarctic Program. The three Bell 212 "Twin Hueys" and two AS-350-B2 "A-Stars" park on a volcanic gravel landing field just below Observation Hill at the southern end of the Station, their rotors tied down to the pad to hold them in place against the Antarctic winds. Helo Ops supports the 60 or so scientists who are working at field camps in the area. They shuttle personnel back and forth to Station as well as deliver and recover supplies in cargo packages known as "sling loads" hung beneath the aircraft. Half of Team Pycno, Steve Lane,...
sea spider
Learn all about the Antarctic Treaty and sea spider research LIVE on Dec 1! Individuals and classrooms welcome! Pre-register here: https://www.polartrec.com/polar-connect/register PolarConnect Antarctica Day Event with Tim Dwyer and the Team studying Polar Gigantism in Antarctica When: Thursday, 1 December 2016 at 8:00am AKST (9am PST, 10pm MST, 11am CST, 12pm EST) What: 1 hour event with Q&A at the end for teachers, students, and general audiences Register: https://www.polartrec.com/polar-connect/register Join us for a special international day of activities including a live event from McMurdo, Antarctica on Thursday, 1 December with PolarTREC teacher Tim Dwyer and the research team looking at Polar Gigantism in Antarctica. Learn more about the importance of the Antarctica...
ned goldsmith signpost
Navy Lieutenant Ned Goldsmith poses with the signpost at McMurdo Station in November, 1966 (photo courtesy N. Goldsmith). In the austral spring of 1966, Ned Goldsmith was a young US Navy lieutenant assigned to McMurdo Station to fly helicopters. Over the course of a few deployments in the late '60s, Goldsmith was a witness to, and sometimes a participant in, some pioneering exploits of Antarctic aviation. A decade after the International Geophysical Year and the establishment of McMurdo Station, Ned and the scientists he carried aboard his Sikorsky H-34 were still among the first to stand on certain parts of Antarctica, visiting places literally no one had ever been. Now in his seventies, Ned - a neighbor and friend of mine in Washington State - found out that I was headed to...
Scott Base
While there are thirty countries with research stations in Antarctica, it's still a big, lonely continent, so it's nice to have neighbors here on Ross Island. The Government of New Zealand operates Scott Base, the year-round station just on the other side of Observation Hill. Like many of the stations in Antarctica, Scott Base has its beginnings during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957/58, the first coordinated effort by the international community to study the continent scientifically. Sir Edmund Hillary lead a team that established Scott Base as the ultimate destination of the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition lead by Sir Vivian Fuchs in 1958. Hillary's "hut" remains to this day, and is maintained by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, though Scott Base has grown...
food line
To feed a traditional meal to more than 900 people is no easy feat, and the McMurdo Dining Staff went into overdrive for the event. The American Thanksgiving holiday is as much a big deal here at McMurdo Station as it is throughout the USA. Instead of celebrating on the fourth Thursday of November, USAP participants observe the holiday on the fourth Saturday. The costs of transporting people all the way down here and maintaining a high standard of living in such a formidable environment are necessarily high, so the USAP work week is 54 hours - 6 days at 9 hours a day. Participants get Sundays off but most of the regular holidays are not observed, Thanksgiving and Christmas being two of the exceptions. A Saturday holiday is cause for a huge celebration and the station population goes...
ice fall
The folds and cracks in the sea ice formed by the lateral compression of the ice floes can be breathtaking and dangerous, but what is visible on the surface of pressure ridges is only part the story. Beneath the ice, the underside of a pressure ridge has many of the same features, plus a few extras that reveal more about the processes causing their formation. Unobscured by snow, the folding ice floe has the appearance of rolling waves locked in space. In fact, the technical term for the underside of a pressure ridge is the "keel," probably because they resemble a ship's keel when viewed from the right vantage point. Where the waves are steep, tunnels form between the keels and the shoreline, and the thin points in the ridges provide Weddell seals easier access to the ocean. The...
pressure ridge people
At the southernmost tip of Ross Island, Pram Point on the Hut Point peninsula annually witnesses a dramatic interaction between sea ice and land - the pressure ridges. Strong and persistent winds from the polar plateau to the South, coupled with the relentless northward push of the glacial Ross Ice Shelf force the thin sea ice into the bottom end of Ross Island. The outcome is stunning: a broken landscape of grayish-blue, first forming waves, then ridges, and eventually, open fissures filled with curling waves and standing columns. Earlier this week, I hitched a ride with an evening tour of the pressure ridges located only a 10 minute van ride away. The safe hiking route through the feature is well marked by mountaineers' flags and it's wise to stay on the path: the presence of...