Friday, August 31, 2012

McMurdo, at least for now, is surprisingly beautiful.  Temperatures are mild (around 0F) and the winds are low.  The Sun comes up for a few hours a day and the surrounding area is bathed in a twilight glow.  Truthfully, McMurdo itself isn't very pretty, but the area around us is majestic.  We can look across McMurdo Sound (still frozen) to the Prince Albert Mountains and just next to us is Mt. Erebus, a 12,400 foot active volcano with a constant stream of vapor coming from its summit.

Later in the year when things warm up the snow on the ground melts and the dust kicked up by the infamous winds will be a particularly abrasive volcanic type deposited over centuries by that same majestic volcano.  But about the time that happens I will have been flown off to the South Pole where there is no dirt whatsoever!

My sleep patterns are still wrong, with me dropping off to sleep at 6 pm and sleeping until 2 am, but I hope that will normalize soon.  Work days are long here - nine hours a day, six days a week.  Tomorrow is Saturday, a work day, but then Sunday is a day off for everyone... my first since arriving.

More later, and I hope to get some pictures Sunday to post here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


After rushing around for three weeks to get everything ready to leave for Antarctica again, here I am... close but not there yet.  I am in Christchurch, NZ waiting for my flight to the ice tomorrow.  It was originally scheduled for today, Monday the 27th (NZ dates) but because of bad weather the flights have been backing up.  One flight has made it, but Flight 2 has been backed up so they took our spot today.  I am on Flight 3.  If Flight 2 makes it today and the weather holds up in McMurdo I will be leaving tomorrow.

Things are "same, same but different" now that Lockheed Martin has taken over the program.  No Denver training so everyone leaves for Christchurch from their home airport and there is half a day of training here in CHC, and half a day of getting fitted out at the Clothing Distribution Center.  There will be more training in McMurdo in special areas such as safety. 

There appear to be quite a few first-timers this season, at least in WinFly.  A show of hands revelaed about 1/3 first timers in our flight, and about half who have never participated in WinFly (including me).  It is very odd to be the experienced hand with the new people and they ask all kinds of questions, many of which I had during my first deployment.  

I suspect my next post will be from Antarctica unless the weather gets much worse and I have more days in Christchurch.

Friday, August 3, 2012

There and Back Again...

My 2012 Antarctic season is beginning.  I received notice yesterday that I was approved for WinFly.  Back to Antarctica!  WinFly is short for "winter fly-in" and brings personnel into McMurdo Station from Christchurch, NZ to begin relieving the winter-over staff (who have been there all winter).  WinFly happens prior to the main station opening, when the majority of summer residents will arrive.  WinFly usually consists of about 150 people who help get the station ready to receive its full compliment of 1,500 about a month later by doing things like opening dorms and labs, turning on water and heat, and getting the ice runways ready for the main season activities.

Although I expected to be approved for my Antarctic deployment it is never a done deal until you actually pass the PQ process, which I did last week.  Because it was not a sure thing I decided to wait until I knew for sure before posting anything here.  So...

I have 20 days to get ready to leave for Antarctica this year.  I fly out of my home airport in NC on August 23 and spend the next 30 hours in transit to Christchurch.  My route is RDU - DFW - LAX - SYD - CHC.  I then get fitted for ECW gear* and leave for McMurdo the next day - another 5 or 6 hours of flying time in a U.S.Air Force C-17.  The plan, weather permitting, is for me to arrive in McMurdo on August 27 (which is the 26th in the US).  Once I am in McMurdo I will work there for about six weeks and then fly to the South Pole around October 15 for their season opening.  I will work the remainder of the summer season at the cold, windy, high-altitude Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station - a difficult work location at the best of times.  But I prefer it to McMurdo for that very reason.  But I admit I do not have much McMurdo experience so maybe I will like it too.

Until I arrive and can start posting some pics, here is a real-time web cam of McMurdo Station.

You may notice it is always dark [edit - not true any more] because the Sun will not rise above the horizon at McMurdo until around August 15. My office is in the long blue building that goes from the center to about 2:45 in the picture.  The galley, barber shop, store, public access computers, and some dormitory rooms are also in that building.

*ECW gear = Extreme Cold Weather gear.  Usually handed out in Christchurch, NZ since it must be worn on the C-17 flight to the ice.