Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2-Ply and Some Photo Controversy

Yes, I am talking about toilet paper.  We finally have 2-ply toilet paper in McMurdo! Well, it has been here for years, but it's been sitting in a cold dark warehouse behind thousands of rolls of 1-ply.  Not too far off in his description, the wastewater technician recently said he could count the tree rings in the old toilet paper.  The last of 1-ply is still lingering in rarely used bathrooms around station and fully stocked in the dorms that are closed down for the winter, waiting for the new arrivals in October...the folks that arrive back for the summer will never know...well a few of them might read this. Whoops.  I had come accustomed to it and didn't notice how bad it was until I opened that first roll of 2-ply yesterday.  I won't give you details, but what a difference! My boss from this summer left me a few rolls of coveted 3-ply that was sent to her from the States.  With the major delays in getting mail down here during the summer season she didn't have time to use it all before she left.  I told her I'd think of her when I used it.  Okay, enough about TP in Antarctica.

I know everyone has seen that photo already.  It is one of my favorite photos of people that I have taken down here.  The empty flagpoles pointing at the last plane leaving and everyone looking up to catch the last glimpse of their missed escape captures the exact feeling I was hoping to get when I walked over to the champagne toast with my camera.  I shared it with many of may coworkers and it soon made it into two articles in the Antarctic Sun newspaper:  


Notice that the photos in the newspaper have no watermark on them and the one that I posted above does.  This is the result of an original publishing of the above photo on the front cover of the weekly McMurdo station report that is sent out to hundreds of people at the Antarctic Support Contract headquarters in Denver, CO, the National Science Foundation in Washinton, D.C.  This report was immediately rejected because of my photo. Because it has a watermark on the corner.  Apparently official government documents cannot use "copyrighted" photos.  The station manager then went up to the vehicle maintenance shop and took a picture of someone working on a truck and used that for the official report.  So to be safe we used the photo without the watermark for the newspaper articles.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Last Salad for the Birds

Last week, just before that last of the salad, I was walking from my dorm to the dining hall and noticed a skua sitting in the middle of a pile of salad.  I've seen a few skuas attack or at least scare people into dropping their food this summer.  These bastard birds have made off with chicken strips and shepherd's pie and even lobster tails on Christmas.  But this one may have captured the bounty of the season: some of the last precious leaves of lettuce.  

Apples, onions, potatoes and eggs will last for the rest of the winter and we'll have sprouts throughout the dark spell, but we're at the end of everything else fresh.  The skuas will even be leaving soon.  I have no idea where they go from here.  McMurdo is thousands of miles from anything living and edible besides a few seals and penguins. There will be only 143 living things left (besides a few gnats and fruit flies that live in the buildings)....slowly turning into zombies with the darkness that is increasing by the hour.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Firsts of the Winter

The pace in McMurdo has slowed and winter is upon us.  Here are a couple of firsts from the first few days of winter:

Winter's first laughs...minutes after the flight was gone.

The first sunset of winter.

Probably some of the last Minke Whales I'll see for the year.  
3/10/13: Clear and Cold and Beautiful.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Last Plane out of Antarctica

It is official: winter in Antarctica has begun!  

The weather is nice and the sun still shines, but the planes are gone and the fresh food is dwindling.  McMurdo feels like a deserted mining town with a few foolhardy souls who stubbornly refused to leave for the season.

March 5, 2013 Sunset

March 6, 2013 Sunrise
 The soonest another flight will come down is the 3rd week of August.  The last flight left yesterday afternoon.  Now our winter population in McMurdo is down to 143 people and most of them crowded onto the deck of the chalet for a champagne toast as a New Zealand Air Force 757 took the last of the summer workers out of McMurdo and left us to fend for ourselves for the next 6 months.

Last Plane out of Antarctica for the season...4 days late (not a surprise) on March 9, 2013.
For now I don't feel trapped.  I thought that feeling would set in as soon as I heard the plane take off.  Right now I'm left with a feeling of relief and excitement for the winter and this new experience of having to stay on one place.  Hopefully that feeling lasts.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Antarctic Sunsets Part 3

Except for the exhaust fumes in McMurdo the air in Antarctica is pretty clean.  That's great, but it doesn't lead to the most colorful sunsets.  The sunsets are spectacular because of the clouds and the surroundings...well really just for the fact that they are in Antarctica.

March 4, 2013

The last [cruise] ship of the season.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Antarctic Sunsets Part 2

March 2nd wasn't quite as spectacular as the evening before, but I can't complain after a summer of no sunsets.  As I write this the evening light is pouring through my newly cleaned window with the promise of the best one yet.  The ocean is calm and the clouds are perfect and my camera is calling my name...

One of the best dorm room views ever

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Antarctic Sunsets Part 1

We've been having some amazing sunsets in McMurdo lately.  I look out the window right now to what should be a beautiful sunset, but all I see is a fading white blur.  The blowing snow and clouds obscure what could be the sun setting behind the Royal Society Range.  This gives me time to go through photos and start a short series of the beautiful views from my dorm room.

View from my room: 3/1/13
I haven't had much time on my hands lately to take photos, but I have found a few moments to open the window to my room and stick the camera out to capture a few sunsets.  I'll work on the backlog of photos that I have and try to get the sunsets up as often as possible.

3/1/13 Sunset
Notice the steam on the water...the air from the south is a bit colder than the warmer water coming from the north.
I need to take advantage of the beautiful light while I can before it all disappears into the Antarctic night.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Air is Getting Colder, But There is Still Open Water Out My Window

All the ships are gone for the season and the last plane of the year should have came and gone today.  Mechanical delays mean we have to wait one more day until winter really begins.  McMurdo already feels empty, but we are still going to loose 50 more people on the last flight.  

Trucks waiting to bring shipping containers off the Ocean Giant

Ocean Giant Shipping Vessel

The sunsets last for hours and it almost gets dark at night now.  Within the next week we'll have a true night and day for awhile until the perpetual night starts.  

One of the Last C-17 flights of the year.
The pace throughout town has mellowed out quite a bit for everyone except for me.  I'm still working out all the trainings and working out all the kinks for the Winter Search & Rescue team.  Hopefully within the next month that will all get worked out and I can mellow out and enjoy being here for the season.

The Ocean Giant leaves McMurdo...

...with the icebreaker not far behind.

Up Next: Sunsets....lots and lots of sunsets.