Sunday, March 27, 2011

The First Visit to the Pressure Ridges

Right now, it's Sunday evening and the sunset outside is magnificent! The fiery orange light is bouncing off the clouds and the semi-frozen sea water, giving everything a soft glow. And since the sun sets sideways here, the colors can last for hours!

Today, I'll be posting photos from an excursion that I took back in late October to the pressure ridges near Scott Base. The pressure ridges are ice formations that are caused by two things: 1) the movement of the permanent ice shelf against the annual sea ice, much like a fault line between tectonic plates on land, and 2) the twice-daily rising and sinking of the sea ice and ice shelf due to tides. I visited the pressure ridges twice, the second time being in mid-January after the ice had begun melting and the temperature had climbed into the mid-40s. The differences are amazing!

Both of my visits were on cloudy days, which means I took photos of white ice formations against a white background. While they turned out clearly,  you may find that clicking on the photos to enlarge them will bring out more detail. I tried to get more color contrast by reducing the exposure (the amount of light that enters the camera lens), hence why some of the pictures are darker than others.

This formation looks like ice waves about to crash on a white beach. Green flags, visible on the right, marked the safe trail through the ridges so that no one fell through the ice.

Ice towers!

A view of Scott Base from the pressure ridges. Legend has it that whoever designed Scott Base said that since New Zealand is a green country dotted with white sheep, Scott Base should be made up of green buildings dotting a white landscape.

The big pieces of ice were a beautiful deep blue color.

We had to follow a very specific path through the ridges lest we fall through to the sea below. Every couple of days, technicians came out to verify that the path was still solid and to reroute parts of it if needed. During our hike, we came upon a pack of Weddell seals lounging on the ice, including a mother and pup. :)


In this patch of water is the ice hole that allows the seals to go into and out of the sea.

This seal was right next to the trail; he seemed interested in us for a little bit, but for the most part he just ignored us.

Isn't he cute! Look at how much fat he has on him so he can stay warm.

Lazy seal. :)

A seal pokes his head up through the ice hole on the left.

Momma and pup!

It's nursing time.

Momma and pup with Ob Hill in the background.

I took a 50-second video of the pup seal nursing. He (or she?) alternated between eating his dinner and looking at us. If you listen closely, you can hear the pup make sucking sounds.

A panoromic view of the pressure ridges.

Scott Base behind the ridges.

Ob Hill and Scott Base behind some ice formations.

More pressure ridges next time! :-D

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bacon Rescue, Part II: A Time-Lapse Video

Michael Christiansen (a.k.a. MC), one of the two pickle drivers, set up his camera in Building 155 to take photos of the bacon rescue every eight seconds throughout the day. More than five thousands photos later comes this five-minute time-lapse video. Enjoy! :)-

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bacon Rescue

It turns out that when all the food was offloaded from the supply ship and stored in the freezer last month, the bacon was buried in a very inaccessible spot, leaving McMurdo Station without bacon. What began as a small panic turned into a full-scale crisis, and an operation to rescue the bacon, which was buried beneath approximately 130 other crates of food, was planned and executed this past Friday. To get to it, all those crates had to be removed from the freezer and laid out outside on the ground. After the bacon was found, all 130+ crates had to be put back in the same order in which they were taken. It was a long day!

Gareth uses the Bendi indoor forklift to remove one food crate at a time. Both aisles had to be cleared to get to the bacon.

Michael and Mark each drove a pickle, a small outdoor forklift, to take the crates from the freezer dock to the outdoor area next to the freezer.

It's a tight squeeze to maneuver the Bendi inside the freezer.

A pickle retrieves another food crate from the freezer dock. The small shack on the left is the warming shack, where we occasionally took breaks to warm up.

The crates begin to pile up outside.

Finally! The bacon has been found! :-D

All the food crates sit outside. Before we put them back into the freezer, I worked with the kitchen staff to find any other food they wanted so that we didn't have to do another rescue operation.

As we were loading the crates back into the freezer, one of the pickles suddenly dumped all of its hydraulic fluid onto the ground. Due to the conservation terms of the Antarctic Treaty, a chemical spill requires a total cleanup, so the fire department, the hazardous waste department, and fleet operations all showed up to clean up the spill and tow the pickle to the shop. Fortunately, another pickle was available.

Fleet ops prepares to tow the pickle to the shop for repairs.

As the afternoon wore on, the number of crates outside slowly decreased.

Finally, the last of the crates is being loaded into the freezer! Done at last! :-D

All that for bacon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Beginning of Winter and a Tribute to Summer

It is now officially winter at McMurdo Station. On Saturday, March 5, the final flight took the last of the summer-only contractors back to civilization, leaving 151 people here to maintain McMurdo until late August, when the next summer research season begins. For the departure of the last flight, all the winterovers (as people who spend winter at McMurdo are known) gathered to watch the plane and toast the official beginning of winter.

Far in the distance, on the ice shelf beyond the open water, lies the Pegasus runway and the few buildings that lay around it. Pegasus is the permanent runway, unlike the sea ice runway which is built and taken down each year.

The last flight has taken off...

...and now we're all stuck here together until August! I hope it doesn't get too cold...

Larry and Zachary toast the beginning of the winter season.

After the toast, everyone had Antarctic cake in the galley.



Mmmm... I had a side piece with lots of icing!
For the winter, my job is in the Supply department, specifically food supply. Yay!! I work with a guy named Gareth to deliver food from the food warehouses to the kitchen each week. We're also in charge of organizing the rest of the food that came in on the supply ship last month. There are three food warehouses: the freezer (which is cooled), the CF (can freeze, which is neither cooled nor heated), and the DNF (do not freeze, which is heated). We also help the store managers by delivering beverages from the beverage warehouse to the store and bars and merchandise from the store warehouse to the store. So far, I've been trained to drive three different types of forklifts. I like my new job. :)

I realized the other day that I had never posted any photos of me as a janitor, so here's a tribute to a wonderful summer season keeping McMurdo clean. :)

Uh-oh! A dirty spot!

Spray... Scrub, scrub, scrub...

Much better!

Disinfecting the waterless urinal... it was stinky!

On a cold September afternoon, ice cream from the ice cream truck to warm everyone up!

Mike and Juicebox clean up the floor in the electrical supply shop; it hadn't been cleaned in years, and it was GROSS!

Most janos arrived in August, but a few came in early October, so we formed a welcoming committee!

Happy Meagan takes out the trash. :)

Everyday we had stretch break from 10:15 to 10:30. Atlee helps Larry stretch his legs.

For Halloween, several janos dressed up in various Lady Gaga outfits and did a dance routine to her song "Telephone"; the Lady Gaga janos also won the costume contest.

Tyler sculpted a peace sign into his goatee.

Liz cleans the halls of Building 155 with the Zamboni.

I got to work with Juicebox on a special deep-carpet-cleaning project in September before most people arrived.

Kevin refuels the truck after a linen run. Periodically, the janos would collect all the used linens from the dorms and deliver them to the laundry room, where Nikki and Lolo would clean them.

During the summer, the Shuttles department is in charge of running taxis, shuttles, and getting people to and from the airport. During the winter, however, the Supply Department takes over that function, which meant that I had to be trained on driving pick-up trucks, vans, airporters, and deltas.

On Monday, February 21, I was assigned to drive one of the passenger Deltas to the Pegasus runway; I had 18 people in my trailer.

Over 100 eager people line up to get on the C-17 taking them to Christchurch, New Zealand, where many of them would begin their post-Antarctic vacations. Little did anyone know they would be landing in Christchurch within 24 hours of a devastating earthquake.

A view of Erebus (obscured), Castle Rock, and Ob Hill from Pegasus.

For my runner friends, here's a link to a New York Times article on the McMurdo marathon that was held in January. The route went from near Scott Base out to Pegasus (about 14 miles one way) and back. I will continue to post throughout the winter season, and I still have several things from the summer that I haven't put up yet. Stay tuned!