Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nights Fly By and Days Don't Exist

I just finished up my 5th (I think) night shift of the offload of the vessel.  The first few days only a few shipping containers came off, but now there are 80-100 containers coming off per 12-hour shift.  It is amazing how fast 12 hours goes when there is actually stuff to do.  The nights are starting to fly by.

The shipping vessel waiting to offloaded with containers sitting waiting to be shipped off the continent.
My days don't exist because I only have a few waking hours outside of work and those are spent just starting to realize that I am awake and the need to get ready to go back to work.  I should only have a few more nights to work and then I can go back to being a normal person...if spending a winter in Antarctica counts as such.

The lowest the sun got a few nights ago.
The last plane leaves the continent in only 2 weeks, but McMurdo is busier than ever.  There are large trucks and heavy equipment cruising around everywhere dealing with unloading almost 700 containers and then loading hundreds more back on the ship.  When this is all over hundreds upon hundreds of people will suddenly leave and McMurdo will turn into the winter ghost town that I am excited for.

Not long after the ship hit and grounded the ice pier, delaying offload for a day and half.
The nights right now are beautiful.  The sun went down tonight for the first time in 2013.  Therefore, it was the first sunrise of 2013 and it was amazing...a storm had cleared and pink light on the lenticular clouds above the Ross Ice Shelf welcomed the last half of my shift.  The transition of light over the next few months will be pretty spectacular.

Shouldn't be long before the perpetual sunset/rise

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I wish I could say I came back from New Zealand to a calm new start to my winter in Antarctica.  It has been quite the opposite.  McMurdo’s population is up to almost 1,000 again because there are a bunch of people who have come down for the shipping vessel offload and everyone from the South Pole is here waiting for flights back to New Zealand.

Scott's Discovery Hut with the fuel Tanker and McMurdo in the background.
It is almost 5am and I am still awake.  This is a very good thing.  My new job in the supply department has a huge part in the vessel offload and I am on the 12-hour night shift for the proposed 8 day offload.  But, like everything else within the US Antarctic Program things are delayed.  The ship is arriving a day late, because the fuel tanker took longer than expected to unload the fuel.  And I’m going to say that the expected 8 day offload time will longer as well. Since my shift will be 6pm to 6am I am happy to still be awake right now. 

Only another week until our first sunset in months.

Summer is certainly over here in McMurdo.  The colder temperatures and windier days remind me of that every time I walk outside.  Actually, my dorm room window leaks so bad I don’t even have to walk outside to know how cold and windy it is!

The tanker docked at the ice pier and the Russian icebreaker meandering in the open ocean.

There is also another new sight: ships.  The Russian contracted ice breaker arrived at the sea ice edge almost 2 weeks ago and broke up a channel to allow the fuel tanker and one of the USAP research vessels into the McMurdo port.  The tanker just finished up unfueling today and is scheduled to leave at 8am tomorrow--just in time for the shipping vessel containing more than 670 shipping containers to arrive.  This ship is sitting out in the water about 15 miles from McMurdo waiting for the tanker to leave. 

The Russian icebreaker passes in front of the Royal Society Range.

The research vessel left a few days ago.  The ice breaker is still here despite most of the ice breaking up and blowing out to sea last night.  I looked out the window last night and noticed that much of the ice was beginning to break up just outside of town and then woke up to only open water.  In a matter of hours over 100 square miles of sea ice disappeared.  It is bizarre to see open water where I’ve spent a large part of the spring and summer working on the ice.
Yesterday this was ALL covered in ice!!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Time off in New Zealand

Kaikoura, NZ coastline

The USAF C-17 cargo jet is still not flying to/from McMurdo because the runway isn’t in good enough shape yet.  So this means the only way to get back to Christchurch right now is an eight hour flight on a LC-130 .  Eight hours on a normal plane isn’t bad, but sitting in a mesh-netting seat on the side of a military cargo plane is terrible.  I slept many different times during my flight back to Christchurch, but each time I only slept for a few minutes before the discomfort would jar me awake again.

Kaikoura, NZ
Once we landed in Christchurch I felt like I was on a different planet.  Going through immigration and customs was a breeze and then I walked out into the real world.  The humidity and the smells overwhelmed me.  I stood there in a daze before I made my way over to the bus stop.  I couldn’t stop staring at trees and houses and cars and all these things that seemed so new to me.  

Living things in the sea! Finally more than just floating ice!

If you are bored with life and need something to stimulate your senses go to Antarctica.  Every day is different and exciting.  But it is all too easy to get sucked into the excitement of the Antarctic world and become comfortable in a place that is so closed off from the rest of the world.  If you get bored with that go back to New Zealand. After I jumped back into the real world for a few days one of the hardest things for me to do was to order food from a restaurant.  There were so many options!  I got used to walking through the galley and grabbing whatever happened to look good.  I walked into grocery stores wide-eyed and confused.  The sounds from insects were bizarre and the sun fried my newly exposed skin.  After a week here my arms and neck are still red and painful. Often I would forget where in the world I was.  Some moments I would feel like I was in the US, others I would feel like I was in Chile and sometimes I wouldn't know here the hell I was standing.

Kaikoura, NZ
My arms and neck are still red and hurt like hell even after dozens of daily applications of aloe.  I’m not quite as wide-eyed in grocery stores and the trees are starting to seem normal again.  It is all great timing because I fly back to Antarctica tomorrow.

Being back in New Zealand has been a tease of the traveling that I’ll have to wait another eight months to do.  Although it was exactly what I needed before the winter starts.  I feel like winter in Antarctica is going to have three different starts for me.  It will first begin when I start my new job on Feb 11.  The second start will be the first official day of winter in the US Antarctica Program on February 28.  But I think winter will really start once the last flight leaves on March 5th.  Then it is full on no physical contact from the outside world until the 3rd week of August.

I have about 2000 photos to go through from the last few days so there be most posts and photos coming in the next week or so.  Until then I leave you with some seabird yoga poses.... 

And the classic seal yoga pose.

And a moment that I won't experience for another 3/4 of a year: