Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Camping on the Ross Ice Shelf

Sometimes it is a major luxury to not have to carry everything you need in a pack on your back.  Back in the “real world” car camping always seems like such an amazing luxury.  Well in Antarctica if you need to carry gear someplace you through it on a helicopter or a plane or some sort of tracked vehicle.  And if you want to set up a camp on the Ross Ice Shelf you load thousands of pounds of camping gear and science equipment onto cargo planes and fly it to the middle of flat, white nowhere.

I worked at a camp called RIS (Ross Ice Shelf) or Yesterday Camp for a bit this year.  It was called Yesterday Camp because it was just across the international date line so according to local time it was yesterday there.   Three LC-130 Hercules planes dropped off camp and science gear and the camp was in place for a month.

The massive camp at RIS surrounded by flat white nothing as far as  you can see.
Lines of cargo at RIS. There were 3 LC-130 flights that brought cargo out to camp, but only 2 to take cargo back to McMurdo so packing pallets of cargo to return had to be done strategically. 

Another view of RIS camp.
All of the field sites looked exactly the same: flat white.  I was with a science group that was installing seismic sensors to investigate the effects of waves on the ice shelf.   Some of the sites were visited by snow machine from camp.

Other sites were visited by twin otter.  I would consider a twin otter the ATV of Antarctica.  They can land on almost any snowy terrain and can taxi along snow and ice for many miles to get to places that aren't safe to land.  It really is amazing where these planes can go.

The first of two camp take out flights via LC-130.

I was working at the camp with one other person and we flew back to McMurdo on a twin otter and the next morning we flew out on an LC-130 to retrieve the rest of the cargo.  The black dot through the center window are the last few pallets of cargo and the horizontal line is the groomed skyway that I rode hundreds of miles (along a 10,000' strip) to flatten for the plane to land on. 

In the deep field in Antarctica the only way to load a pallet is to attach a few straps and two snow machines to it and hope it doesn't dig into the snow on the way to the plane.  Most of the air force pallets weight about 3,000 pounds to getting them to move forward was quite a task.

After all the pallets were loaded we pulled up an empty pallet to the back of the plane and drove the snow machines onto it...all done with the plane engines still running.

Those were then winched onto the plane and nothing but flat white was left.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Early Season in Antarctica

As is the norm lately I’m super late getting blog posts up, but I do have a pretty good collection of photos from the first part of the season down here in Antarctica and figured it was better to share them a few months late than not at all. 

The summer season at McMurdo Station is called mainbody and runs from early October through the end of February.   Much of the early season work is on the sea ice, which is one of my favorite parts about being down here because it’s one of the only dynamic things down here that can drastically change from day to day.  And being on the sea ice is the best chance to see wildlife, well besides some of the strange creatures that work in McMurdo. 

Here’s a small collection of photos from the McMurdo Sound area in October and November.  

I was bartending on Halloween night and when we closed at 1am and was far too hyped up to go to sleep.  So I grabbed my camera and went for a walk. Even though the sun didn't set,  it was still low enough in the sky to create the last sunset/sunrise colors that I saw for the rest of the season.

October was full of horrible weather, with only a few days clear and calm enough to get outside and get work done.  On this clear day Mt. Erebus was still covered in lenticular clouds meaning super high winds high on the mountain. 

Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds hides a plethora of gourmet food, such as these cans of 100 year old beef loaf. 

In mid-November I helped out a group of seal biologists.  They tag Weddell Seals as part of a seal population study that has been going on for over 40 years.

I only saw penguins one day this year out on the sea ice, but that day I saw over a hundred Emperor Penguins waddling and sliding across the ice.  We stopped to sit and watch the first few groups, but as the day went on penguins sitings became comparable to seeing cows on the side of the road while driving though Montana.  

Exploring an ice cave in the Erebus Glacier Tongue.  The open space inside this cave is from a crevasse that was sealed off by snow and wasn't revealed again until the glacier tongue broke off while floating into the ocean. 

Emperor Penguins hanging out along the sea ice edge in McMurdo Sound. 

The Royal Society Range from the sea ice during a traverse carrying fuel and cargo across McMurdo Sound to Marble Point which is a helicopter refueling station for the Dry Valleys. 

The Adelie Penguin colony at Cape Royds.

Home Sweet Home:  McMurdo situation on the southern tip of Ross Island.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Travel Photos from 2014

Somehow 2014 turned into a year of travel: visiting all seven contents, 59 flights on commercial, private and military planes, thousands of frequent flier miles and tens of thousands of photos taken.  

It doesn't look like 2015 will end up being such a busy travel year, but should be interesting in its own right.

Here is a quick highlight of just a few of my favorite photos from each continent this year. 

Map made at

North America: 

Ice caves in the Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska.
Looking down on Higgins Avenue, Missoula, Montana


Dhow boats on Dubai Creek in an older section of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building dominates the night in Dubai.

One of the few shots I got in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A shadow of Christchurch's new city skyline.

 South America
Kid's play frisbee with us, while struggling to hold onto the snacks we gave him, in the Santa Cruz Valley of Peru.
Morning at Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile.

A Martial Eagle enjoys it's evening meal in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
The most intense eyes I've ever seen.
Zazoo from the Lion King.
Harold the Hippo.  He's always in his pond so the safari guides go there when they are having a slow wildlife  day.
Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Fishing in Istanbul's Bosphorus River.
Of course I had to see Big Ben during my day in London.

Adelie Penguin rookery at Cape Royds in McMurdo Sound.
A young Weddell Seal pup

Looking toward the Royal Society Range while flying into the Dry Valleys Region of Antarctica.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Southbound C-17

I guess it is time to break the blog post silence with a short post about my flight down to Antarctica this year.

Christchuch, New Zealand is our jumping off point to fly to McMurdo.
After the earthquake, downtown Christchurch is being rebuilt and there are art installations everywhere.

I've wanted to fly on the C-17 since I started working in Antarctica.  My first flight down was on the Airbus 319 leased from the Australian Antarctic Division and used to transport people to McMurdo during the first month or so of the summer season.  Despite having a nice airline seat to sit in and a good view the whole time I was bummed that I didn't get to ride on the C-17.
The C-17 landing in McMurdo in April 2013.
The inside of the C-17
The Airbus 319.
The LC-130 Hercules
Inside of the C-17
The cockpit of the C-17

Looking down into the C-17 from the cockpit. 
On my next few trips between McMurdo and Christchurch I was on the LC-130 Hercules, which is louder, less comfortable and takes 3 hours longer than the other two planes.  But this year I finally got to ride down on the C-17!

Weddell Seals just outside of McMurdo Station.