Saturday, September 29, 2012

And for a completely different view on working in Antarctica, try Genevieve's blog at

Miscellaneous from McMurdo Base

Here are some pictures I have taken since being here at McMurdo.  They are in no particular order or subject:
Scott's Discovery Hut and its relation to McMurdo Station (in the background).

The interior of Scott's Discovery Hut.

100 year-old hay for Scott's ponies.  Just inside the entry door  of the Discovery Hut.

Dog Biscuit box for Scott's dogs.  By treaty, no more dogs are allowed in Antarctica.

These are the (blurry) dog biscuits themselves.

Fur hats and gloves from one of the many groups that used this  hut for supplies over about a 20 year period.  These are probably seal skin.  No more seal hunting either, fortunately.

The center-pole roof design of the Scott Discovery Hut.  This structure was made in England, disassembled and reassembled in Antarctica.  It proved so cold that no one ever used it for living quarters - preferring the ships that were nearby.  The frost on the ceiling is probably from the breath of visitors.

Right outside the Discovery Hut is McMurdo Sound.  The Prince Albert Mountains are  across the Sound.

This is a pathway down to the Sound from the Hut.  It is strictly forbidden to walk out onto the ice as there are open leads and thin ice between the pressure ridges.  In order to venture onto the ice you must have a two-day Sea Ice training course.  This is the area where the Observation Tube is placed in the ice most summers.

Friday, September 28, 2012

End of Winfly

Winfly for 2012 is almost over - only three days until mainbody starts arriving and the population doubles in one day and triples in a few more. The small community of Winfly will go away and there will be lines in the galley for food, limited spaces at tables, vehicles driving on the road, strange faces... and for me a room-mate!  I somehow got lucky last month and got a room to myself.  So I sleep when I want, get up when I want, watch TV when I want, and don't have to worry about bothering a room-mate.  Oh, solitude how I will miss thee.

Over the past month my work center, Health and Safety, has gotten all our safety training accomplished. Training newly arriving employees here in Antarctica is new this year. Previously all training had been conducted in Denver before deployment but now people receive their training after they arrive in Antarctica. Its a different way to do things and has its problems and advantages.  We have to conduct more training sessions and that takes time, but the class sizes are smaller and that's better for learning.  Our winfly training was completed yesterday, so we now have three entire days until the mainbody arrives and we have to start all over with their training.

The biggest issue with training here in McMurdo is the lack of places to train people. Safety is not the only group training, so the battle for space is fierce. McMurdo, Antarctica is not exactly overrun with meeting rooms and that sometimes produces odd results.  My last training session was in the local bar, Gallaghers.  I used the large screen TV as my projection screen and my students sat around the tables.  Don't worry, it was during the day when the bar was closed.

I will be here another month until South Pole opens for the summer so there will be plenty to do between now and then.  Even some Occupational Health work - the reason I was sent here!  Of course the details of my work are confidential, but I feel comfortable saying it has been an interesting four weeks.

Temperature yesterday at McMurdo: -18F, windchill -68F
Temperature today: -6F, no wind.

Temperature at South Pole: -67F, windchill -106F

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dive Tending on McMurdo Sound

Yesterday I was able to Dive Tend. This basically means helping the McMurdo research divers with their gear, helping them get in and out of the water, and acting as a surface safety person in case of trouble.  The divers are doing research and collecting specimens from the bottom of McMurdo Sound which at this location if about 60-70 feet deep. The ice is about four feet thick at this time of year (spring).  The two divers in black are researchers and the diver in yellow is the safety diver.

 Above: Getting ready to dive.

There were three divers today.  This is the safety diver who goes along with the research divers.  He told us he has 34 years of experience diving at McMurdo.

In the water.

Tired, cold divers pulling up the safety lines and sample cores.

Luckily for me and my fellow dive tender, we got to stay in the nice warm hut while the divers were in the water.  When the divers come back to the surface they are not able to get out of the water with all their gear, so the dive tenders help by pulling the divers' SCBA tanks out of the water (about 48 lbs each), and then their dive weights (about 40 lbs).  The divers are then able to get out of the water on their own.

New: for a blog from the divers' perspective look to:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Visit to Scott's Hut

Yesterday I received a tour of Scott's Hut at Hut Point near McMurdo.  The Point is only about half a mile from the base and is an easy walk.  It was a beautiful day (5F and no wind) and a nice trip.  Because I was on an official tour I got to go inside the hut, which is normally closed to visitors.

The hut was built between 1901 and 1904 and was entirely prefabricated in England.  Unfortunately the hut proved too cold to live in and the men of Scott's expedition chose to sleep in the much warmer ship, which was anchored only about 50 yards away.  The hut was used mostly for supplies and equipment and daily living on and off for the next 25 years for several expeditions.

I neglected to get an exterior shot of the hut, which I will get soon and post here.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Ha, proof!  I once posted a discussion of egg-oiling at South Pole and how oiled eggs did not need to be refrigerated.  I also said I thought that in New Zealand eggs weren't refrigerated in supermarkets but were just set out on shelves... but I wasn't sure.  Now I have proof.  Two weeks ago in Christchurch I ran across this display of eggs for sale just sitting on the shelf in a supermarket .  Evidently it is a normal everyday thing to do.  See for yourself: