Nov 2013






















Going South, First Trip

My first trip to Antarctica was in 1999 to McMurdo Station. McMurdo is the largest of the three US bases in Antarctica and is located on the side of the world's southernmost active volcano. Well, maybe not exactly on the side but it's at one end of a peninsula with Mount Erebus at the other and the peninsula is defintely part of the mountain.

We arrived from New Zealand after a few failed attempts due to changing weather conditions at the landing site. The flight from New Zealand to McMurdo is a six hour flight if one is lucky enough to be on a C-140, or a 9 hour flight if on a C-130. Due to the distances involved the flight crew must make a decision at the 1/2 way point as to whether they will continue or turn back (boomerang) since there's not enough fuel to make the round trip.

in the C130

We were going down to install weather stations, which we built in Seattle, around the landing strips and where the fog typically forms in the Windless Bight. The goal (which was achieved) was to make better predictions about the weather before the flights left Christchurch and save tons of time and fuel.

weather station

The green flag in this picture marks the edge of the surveyed area and we were not to go beyond the flags. We had search and rescue teams come out and make sure that the areas we were working in had no crevasses before we arrived. You'll note that there is a set of foot prints past the flag. It was not unusual for us to look up from our work and see the helocopter pilot walking around well beyond the flags! Fortunately he found no crevasses.

Antarctica is like no other place. Imagine 24 hours of sunlight. My first night I awoke at 3am panicked that I'd overslept and missed breakfast as the sun came around the corner of a building and into my room, like it was the middle of the day. Heavy curtains take care of that.

Imagine breathing the purest air on earth. There's no pollen and no dust, even though McMurdo is one big dust bucket in the austral summer, the air off the frozen ocean is very clear.

Imagine sitting on the edge of a frozen expanse of ocean watching Weddel Seals performing the same rituals (mostly laying around in the sun) that they've been doing for thousands of years. Very Primal. So here we were, Earth in the form of volcanic rock which makes up Hut Point Peninsula, Air, the freshest you can ever breath, Fire as you have your back to an active volcano, which frequently has smoke plumes and belches forth rocks, and Water frozen in the ocean, glaciers and ice in every direction. This is the most primal place I've been.

Weddel Seal on Ice

continued next page