Living in McMurdo

We're transients in McMurdo, working steadily to get packed and get out of here.  Currently, the station has 1090 people sleeping here - perhaps a fifth of that number are scientists waiting to return home or getting ready to head even further into the continent.  Unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated these last few days and flights are back up everywhere.

There are three significant summer camps this year, supporting numerous deep field camps one step removed from McMurdo:  the Western Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS camp, pronounced "waise", like waiste without the "t"); and the Central Trans Antarctic Mountains (CTAM camp, pronounced, "cee-tam"); and Byrd camp, which existed from 1957-1972 as a permanently manned station, then became a summer camp until 2004/2005, and rebuilt this year.

But we're in a class of our own, a true deep field event.  Something like this hasn't happened in decades, and it has thrown the logistical staff here at McMurdo a bit.  That, and some new rules and regs implemented recently (and discovered when we landed), have delayed our departure by a few days, but hasn't slowed the pace we've been working at to be ready - all of our equipment has to be packed and manifested for flights by the close of business on Wednesday.  So in a very organized-chaos approach, we juggle meetings, briefings, equipment issues, packing, and training.  Today's planned snowmobile practice had to be canceled because of high winds and blowing snow that eliminated the visibility outside of the station, so I spent the afternoon organizing our equipment locker (called a "cage"), pulling the sleep kits out for packing, and organizing all the climbing equipment so we could pack that up for the flights as well.

Greg writes lots of lists, and checks them more than Santa Claus.

The view of Ob Hill from the Galley.  Navy terminology is a
tradition from an earlier era, but no one is trying to change it!

The open lot between the primary living spaces and the work buildings
is called "Derelict Junction."  In this shot, the dorms are behind and
to the right of the frame.  Within this view is the main lab, the aerobics gym,
flight and communication operations, the wine bar, and the chapel/yoga studio.

Dorm row.  Most McMurdo residents live in these buildings,
and two more just off of camera right.  Permanent residents live
two to a room, and transients (like ourselves) are three to a room.
A combination of job seniority and time in Antarctica determines
lodgings - the more senior one becomes, the closer one gets to
the ocean views in the last building seen here.

Seth and Clair heading to another briefing at the Chalet, where
the senior representatives of the National Science Foundation
and Raytheon Polar Services Corporation are officed.

Kat and Greg crossing Beaker Junction, another open lot
amongst the work buildings.

The Science Support Center, or one-half of it.  Phase II is still
waiting to be built.  The second phase will add a wing, doubling
the floor space, and allowing all Science Support areas to
operate in one space:  Mechancial Equipment, Field Training,
Equipment Issue, Food Issue, and Cargo.

Claire is excited to spend a night out at the Survival
Safety training.

A Field Training instructor, Jen, talks about optimal snow
anchors for the Scott Tent we just stood up.  Our team will
be sleeping in three of these while in the field.

We also set up a number of mountaineering tents behind
a stout snow wall to break the wind.

Later that evening, the weather deteriorated.  High winds and
blowing snow encouraged all of us to go to bed early.  

In the morning, we reviewed the night's success.  All fingers,
toes, and souls present and accounted for.

A group dynamics lesson in the form of a search in simulated
blizzard conditions.  Alas, Bryan was never found.

Then on Friday we spent the morning learning how to drive
and maintain snowmobiles.  Four of these will be coming with us.