Posted by: sioglac | Jan 20, 2013


5 on a Basler.
3 on a Basler, 2 on a Herc.
5 on a Herc.
1 on a Herc, 4 on a second Herc.
1 on a Herc, 1 on a second Herc, 18 on a Basler 4 days later (at the earliest).
1 on a Herc, 1 on a second Herc, 1 on a Basler by himself.
1 on a Herc, 8 on a Basler.
1 on a Herc, 6 on a Basler.
1 on a Herc, 1 on a second Herc, 6 on a Basler.

These are all the different configurations that the GPS Team has needed to plan for in the past two weeks. Seriously. At one point I had to plan on being “put-in” (aka dropped off in the middle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with only white in every direction) as field team leader. At another point, I had to teach Slawek and Grace how to service GPS stations since I was going to be put-in possibly a full week after them. Yes, you read that right. I’ve been as high as “Leading a Field Team” and as low as “Last Priority.” My theoretical put-in plane has been as empty as, uh, just me (with, no joke, a personal flight attendent, who assured me after the flight was canceled that he would have been as unhelpful as possible) and as full as 18 people on a (retrofitted) DC-3. It’s been a strange 22 days in McMurdo to say the least. I might as well wallpaper my room with “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters. Maintaining an even keel and being generally flexible is the name of the game.

So what’s the current situation out here? Slawek was put-in last week with 3 of the 7 drillers along with the cargo and personel that are needed to build and run the main drill camp. The same day as his flight, we had 2 other planes land at SLW with most of Team GPS’s science gear (we had 3 planes land at SLW within an hour of each other. We almost need our own air-traffic control tower…). Grace is going tomorrow with the rest of the drill team on the second Herc, which has my checked luggage on it and our gear to have an independent camp. I’m going tomorrow with the first flight of scientists (6 of us), which will have the last of the WISSARD science cargo on it. Then, Tuesday and Wednesday, the rest of the scientists will fly out. That’s the current plan. That being said, our “current” plan seems to change on the hour, so stay tuned.

I haven’t posted recently because either: (1) if we decided on a plan that seemed post-worthy, by the time I found a computer, the plan had changed already, or (2) I’m sitting around entertaining myself with any trivial task while I wait for a flight.

Things that have happened:

  • I went to Hut Point to tour Scott’s Discovery Hut, only to have 6 penguins try to tour the hut with us. If you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, follow WISSARD on Facebook, or read Betty’s blog, I guess you haven’t heard about that yet. Incredible is an understatement. Watch some of my video here and here. I’m kicking myself for not bring my DSLR to the ice this year.
  • Fox News did a not-too-bad article about us, which you can find here. However, their headline is ridiculous. To quote Susan, we aren’t trying to win a race and DEFINITELY not trying to start a war. Let alone a war that was mostly a nuclear arms race…
  • I edited a proposal, finished up the analysis part of a paper from last year’s data, so I can start writing ASAP, edited a paper that is in its final stages, and edited a paper that is in its beginning stages. There should be some solid papers coming out in the next 6 months…
  • Instigated a Mario Kart for Nintendo 64 party.
  • Signed up for the McMurdo Marathon, only to have it canceled. This was a good thing since I’m coming back from an calf/achilles tendon injury, but  am also willing to do just about anything to avenge my 2nd place (or 1st loser) finish during last year’s 5K. I probably would have just injured myself again, so this was for the best.
  • Attended the 3rd Annual 7th Continent Mustache and Beard Competition as well as the 2nd annual Mustache Roulette. I’ll get some pictures of that up ASAP. Two of my female “townie” friends who are wintering-over here had their heads shaved in the name of charity. (Aside: people that work non-science jobs in McMurdo are oh-so-lovingly referred to by scientists as townies, while non-science McMurdo workers oh-so-lovingly refer to scientists as Beakers. Some are offended by these terms. I, perhaps obviously, am not. I use them ironically and love my townie friends equally as much as my beaker friends. Sometimes I feel like coming down to Antarctica is more like a grand sociology experiment than anything else.)
  • Witnessed a blizzard in McMurdo. Shin deep snow. Snowball fights abound.

Transport to the airstrip in 7 hours. Next post will be from Whillans, I hope!




  1. good luck!

  2. Im a soil scientist back in Raleigh, NC. The Whilans expedition has me riveted. Keep the postings coming.

  3. Awe, that penguin video is adorable but a real cliffhanger. How close did they get? Did they come right up to you and hang out, or back away at a certain point? Did they carry on to wherever they were headed, or turn around after checking you out?

    Seeing those little guys up close and personal should make up for at least some of the frustration of being stranded so long!

  4. good luck and succes

  5. […] time we talked, I was giving updates from my time in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, waiting for a plane to come whisk me away to the beautiful Whillans […]

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