Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photos from Antarctica!

Greetings from the Ice! Here are some photos from my arrival in Antarctica and the first few days here.

When we flew from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, we were flown on a military cargo jet. Normally this plane does not have seats; they were specially installed for the flight down to the Ice. You can see all the luggage and other cargo stacked and paletted behind all the passengers.
This is the stairway up to the cockpit. At the beginning of the flight, the attendants allowed two people at a time to go to the cockpit and see the view out the windows. The bubble at the top of the picture was the place from which I took the previous photo.

Here I am sitting in the back seat of the cockpit. Outside the window, I could see the vast expanse of ocean as we flew south.

Here are the military pilots flying the plane. I was fascinated by all the controls in front of them. One of the attendants pointed out what several of the panels were for, but I can't remember any of that now. :)

Larry and I (and Toast, at the bottom of the photo)

Right before the plane landed, we had to put on the extreme cold weather gear we had received in Christchurch. At this point, I'm about halfway done.

Larry has finished putting all his extreme cold weather gear on. Apparently it gets really cold in Antarctica. ;)

Here is a view of the station and the hills behind it. The blue building in the background is the main building where the galley (cafeteria) is located.

Observation Hill - The moon didn't set for several days after we arrived; it just followed a big circle around the sky.

Here's a photo of some of the dorms on the first day that the sun rose (August 19) since sometime in April. Because of the hills on the north side of the station, the sun was not directly visible to us (it still isn't), but you can see the sunlight on the tops of the Transantarctic Mountains in the background.

A close-up of the sunlight reflecting on the Transantarctic Mountains. McMurdo Station is located on the southern tip of Ross Island. The flat area in front of the mountains is the frozen ocean between the island and the mainland. That water will melt once the sun is up 24 hours a day in November and December.

Nacreous clouds! I'd never heard of these until I saw one! Apparently these clouds are made up of water and/or chemical crystals high in the stratosphere, between 50,000 and 80,000 feet high (most commercial jets fly as high as 40,000 feet.), and only occur in the extreme cold of the polar regions. They're shiny and very reflective, so it's hard to miss them.

Here's a cluster of nacreous clouds. Aren't they beautiful!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Photos from Christchurch, New Zealand!

Finally! Photos to upload! :)

On the way to Antarctica, we stopped in Christchurch, New Zealand where we picked up our extreme cold weather clothing and spent a few days just hanging out. Here are some photos from those three days. Enjoy! :)

This is the cathedral in the main square of Christchurch, New Zealand. It's probably the most famous structure here and Cathedral Square is the center of town.

This is the Bridge of Rememberance, built in honor of all the New Zealand soldiers who died in WWI. Under the arch in the background is the Hotel Grand Chancellor where I stayed in Christchurch.
Here is a fun coffee shop that my friend Larry and I found that serves fantastic coffee and a very yummy blackberry and chocolate chip muffin. Mmmm...
Larry and I also found the botanical garden in Christchurch. Even though it's winter, there are still flowers in bloom and the area is beautiful. Of the three days we spent in the city, this was the only afternoon when the sun came out.
Here are some people taking a boat ride down the Avon River, the main river that runs through Christchurch. The town has a strong British feel to it.

Me amidst the flowers. :)
Larry amidst some more flowers. :)
We saw a mother duck and her ducklings in one of the pond in the garden.
More ducks...
The scrumptious deserts we had on our last night in Christchurch at a restaurant called Strawberry Fare. They were so rich that we couldn't finish them!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Day Off

Here at McMurdo Station, the work week is six days long, one of the less exciting aspects of life here. But that means that Sundays are EXTRA special! So, I've spent most of my Sunday afternoon in the coffee shop here on station. When I ordered my first coffee, I learned to my ecstatic surprise that drinks are FREE!! I guess they're included in the food budget, so I'm very happy about that. :-D It also means I'll be leaving extra big tips for the baristas. :) Other than drinking lots of coffee and hot chocolate, I've been reading, writing, and chatting with people here. After spending the last week on my feet cleaning dorms and workstations, it feels FANTASTIC to just sit and sit and sit. :) It's the opposite of how it used to be when I worked an administrative position at CU; I would spend most of the day sitting and couldn't stand sitting still during the weekends. In any case, I like the coffee house a lot, and I imagine I'll be spending lots of time here.

Yesterday, I attended the Outdoor Safety Lecture, which is mandatory for all people who want to go on hikes in the area. I was very happy to learn that there are several hiking trails, including one that goes out to this formation called Castle Rock and a couple that go out onto the sea ice. The station has skis for rent, so I plan to do my first cross-country skiing here sometime soon. I probably won't hike for the next month or so because the sun's barely up and it's still very cold. Once the sun has risen more, it will be a bit warmer for hiking and probably a lot less energy-consuming. I'm amazed at how much energy I spend staying warm just walking from building to building. I'm seldom outside for more than three or four minutes at a time, but after doing that a few times a day, my energy levels are really low at night. I'm sleeping very well. :)

Today I learned that there's a rock-climbing wall on station!! Had I known that in advance, I would have brought my climbing shoes, harness, and helmet with me. Fortunately, I can rent all that stuff here. I got certified to climb the indoor wall this afternoon. Essentially I had to demonstrate that I knew all the climbing commands and had to show that I could safely belay another climber. Right now, the climbing gym is pretty cold so I'll probably wait a bit before doing much climbing, but I'm happy to know that it's here. :)

It's dinner time, so I'm gonna go eat and then probably spend the rest of my evening in the dorm relaxing, maybe playing games with some friends. Happy Saturday night to everyone! :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arrival in McMurdo Station

Hello! I've finally made it to Antarctica! Actually, I've been here for 48 hours already but I've not been able to get online until now. It will take me a bit before I can get photos up, but they will arrive! I promise!

The flight from Christchurch, New Zealand landed on Monday evening after five hours in the air. We flew on a military cargo plane, which was quite a bit different than any other plane I've flown before. The noise level was so high that we had to wear earplugs the whole way. When we landed in Antarctica, I learned that the airstrip (there's no airport) is actually on sea ice. In other words, we landed on the frozen ocean. :)

McMurdo Station is on Ross Island, which is an island formed by the volcanic rock from Mt. Erebus. I'm very excited to take hikes on the island and see what's around. From McMurdo, I can see the mainland of Antarctica and the Transantarctic Mountains (at least that's what I think they're called). Very beautiful! The sun rises tomorrow for the first time in several months. It will appear at 12:30pm and be above the horizon for just under an hour before it goes back down. Right now, we have twilight that lasts all day. When I get up at 6:30am it's still dark. By about 10am it's bright enough to see the hills around the station and the mountains on the mainland. From about 12pm to 3pm, the sky looks like it does right after the sun sets. There's red, orange, and yellow on the northern horizon (the direction where the sun lies) and the sky above is a dusky blue. Then at about 3pm it starts getting dark again until several hours later it's fully night time. Right now, the moon is up permanently. Instead of rising and setting, it just does circles around the sky overhead. At night, many of the stars and constellations are different from what I'm used to in the northern hemisphere. The few that I can still see, such as the zodiac constellations, are upside-down.

At the moment (7pm), the current temperature is -30 degrees Fahrenheit. BRRRRR!!! It's been windy all day and all last night, and the wind chills have been below -50 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm happy that the sun will be rising soon and that the temperatures will be getting warmer as time passes. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Arrival in Auckland

Greetings! After a 14-hour-long flight, we've all made it to Auckland, New Zealand. We'll be shortly boarding a flight to Christchurch where we'll be spending the next couple of days. When I say "we", I'm referring to the entire group of us from Raytheon who are headed down to Antarctica together, somewhere between 50-100 people. It's a fairly big group and one of several such groups heading down to the Ice as the southern winter draws to a close and the sun reappears. Since there's a line for the free Internet here at the airport, I'll sign off now, but I'll post more later, hopefully with pictures. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Orientation Begins!

Good evening! I just checked into the hotel in Denver for orientation. I'm traveling to Antarctica with my friend Larry Fabulous (yes, that's really his last name), and tomorrow morning, our training begins bright and early at 7:30. Oh, so early. I'm not sure yet what all will be covered, but I'll be posting again soon to let you know.

On a sad note, it appears my laptop may have finally kicked the bucket. When I turned it on a few minutes ago, it got caught in a startup loop that wouldn't start up. It kept showing me a blue screen but it never left the blue screen up long enough for me to read it, so I'm not sure what it said. I'm hoping it will decide to work at least once more soon, but I'm not very optimistic. Fortunately, I backed up everything a couple of weeks ago, so I won't lose very much data at all. But still, it's sad to see my computer go. It got me through grad school and lasted me nearly seven years. Larry has very generously offered to let me update my blog from his computer. Thank you, Larry! :)

Chris (cmwrobel), NANA is the name of the company that hired me. Here's a link to their webpage (

Time to go to bed. Zzzzzzzz...