Posted by: sioglac | Nov 14, 2011

The first 24 hours in Antarctica

It’s been a long 24 hours. I guess every day feels really long if the sun never sets. We arrived in McMurdo and were greeted by an in-brief and a science brief. We were assigned rooms (Dorm 203B, room 207) and off we went to pick up our bags and settle in. Life here reminds me quite a lot of my time in Hanover. It’s BEAUTIFUL weather: mid-20s, clear skies, almost no wind. The gravel roads are a bit muddy and my dorm looks like temporary housing. It’s like a flashback to the end of my Sophomore fall at Dartmouth.

First things first: we ate dinner. After dinner, I wanted to store my 50lb duffle of tools in our equipment storage, so I walked over to our storage cage with Huw and Knut. We wander the cargo areas around as well looking for our boxes. On the way I got to snap a picture of Observation Hill, where there is a monument for Robert Scott and his party, all of whom died after their failed attempt to be the first to the geographic South Pole. (Aside: they were beaten by ~1 month by Roald Amundsen. If you don’t know the story of the race to the South Pole, please do read up on it. It’s an incredible story of early 1900s exploration.)

“Ob Hill”. If you look closely, you can see the cross for R.F. Scott. It’s inscribed with, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Finding our cargo. Included our main form of transport. Lucas and I will be servicing the GPS array, which means long, long days on snowmobiles. I’ll show you a map of where we’re going sometime soon.

Then there was a Grantee Social (people in Antarctica on grants are “grantees” as opposed to those that work for Raytheon or NSF). They called it a Grantee Social at least. We think they were just throwing a welcome party for us, complete with fresh ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, wine, and cheese. And a band. Why wouldn’t there be a (pretty good!) band consisting of a tuba, trumpet, clarinet, bass, guitar, and drums my first night in Antarctica??

Afterward, we had a short group meeting for our field team and off to bed by 11PM or so. Up for breakfast at 7AM (breakfast ends at 7:30AM) then the real work began. The first thing to do is put our sleep kits together, which consist of two foam pads, a thermarest, a really big, heavy sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner, a foldable cot (so as to not sleep directly on the ice) an insulated water bottle, a small first aid kit, and a pee bottle (we take the Antarctic Conservation Act seriously). And it all gets shoved in a duffle. Not the easiest task:

Lucas and Ben seemed to think this was a two man job….

I, however, seemed find packing the bags myself. But I did take a nice long rest afterward.

A random thought from Ben: the cages where we store equipment look exactly like the cage where the dogs stay in The Thing. A random thought from me: The Thing is a CLASSIC movie that every one of you should watch. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter at their best.

The cage does look like the cage from The Thing. Also, Atsu never looks this serious.

Then off to lunch. Now, the field team members who have been to Antarctica before with the USAP (Huw, Knut, Ben, Atsu) are at a field safety refresher course. While they are away (and after I blog of course), I will be back at the cage with list of the gear the BFC (always 3 letter acronyms… this is the Berg Field Center, who are responsible for doling out all the field gear to the various parties), making sure we received what we were supposed in the right quantities. Almost everything we do before we leave McMurdo is related to either training or getting our cargo in order.

For those that haven’t been here before with the USAP (Ben, Rory, Matt, and me), we will be attending “Happy Camper School,” an overnight course where we learn the basics for field survival. This, I kid you not, includes learning how to build an igloo. And a few lucky ones (the happiest campers) will get to sleep in an igloo. I don’t know if I could imagine something much cooler. So hopefully I get to do that.

Oh, I guess one other thing I’ve been doing is taking pictures of the ridiculous views. For example:

Sometimes when I look out a window, I actually think it’s a poster. Now off to the cage for inventory. Then hopefully squeezing a run to Scott Base in before dinner. Lots to do. Not much time. Hopefully, I can squeeze in a quick post tonight about where we’re going (because I like making maps). If not, I’ll be at Happy Camper School the next two days, so expect some radio silence.





    Also, be cautious when dealing with any human/cat that has a mustache that looks like:

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