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Waiting For Bag Drag

I’m all done with work here at McMurdo Station. Tomorrow afternoon, I bag drag, the process of checking and weighing bags and gear (and people) in preparation for the flight out. I’m scheduled to leave at a yet to be determined time on Thursday, 2/18/10 (Wednesday, 2/17/10 in the States).

Update: My flight is scheduled to leave McMurdo at 3:30 pm Thursday, 2/18, McMurdo time, which is 9:30 pm Wednesday, 2/17, Eastern time.

Stick around, I’ll still be posting here for a while as I review photos and notes I’ve accumulated over the past several months and as I answer questions folks have been sending me via email.

"Bye."

"Bye."

Penguins at the Seawater Intake

Here are a few shots of penguins hanging around near the seawater intake, where McMurdo Station meets the Ross Sea. The lone penguin from the other day is probably in this group.

Not sure what they are looking at.

Not sure what they are looking at.

Suspicious penguin is suspicious.

Suspicious penguin is suspicious.

In this early evening sunlight, you can see the penguins are molting. Some of them look a bit ragged as their new feathers come in and push out the old. But who am I to judge? I look pretty ragged in the early evening sun too.

"Oh hi!"

"Oh hi!"

Disgruntled penguin is disgruntled.

Disgruntled penguin is disgruntled.

Sizzle-chest.

Sizzle-chest.

Nice Crack

Walking to Hut Point the other morning, I noticed what appeared to be a crack in the ice pier. At first, I thought maybe it was something Fleet Ops was doing. They were in the process of removing the layer of dirt and gravel that is placed on the pier for traction during vessel operations.

"That looks like a crack."

"That looks like a crack."

Turns out, what I saw is a crack in the ice pier.

"That is a crack."

"That is a crack."

Good thing it didn’t break in two during the cargo vessel offload. That could have been a problem.
Since it can’t be repaired, the ice pier has been freed from its moorings to float to open water. From there I guess it will either break up or sink on its own, or will be broken up or sunk with the help of meddlesome humans. Since being released, it has already floated a couple hundred feet toward Hut Point. You can see where the bridge is on land and where it used to line up on the platform upon the ice pier.

Ice Pier floating away.

Ice Pier floating away.

About twelve hours later.

About twelve hours later.

There is a good deal of open water to drift to.

…and it sure is windy enough.

Penguin on the Road

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

A lone Adélie Penguin on the road between my dorm and Winter Quarters Bay.

Cheers!

Inside Discovery Hut (Scott’s Hut)

Antarctica is the only continent on earth where man’s original buildings remain. On February 9, 2010, I was privileged to take several members of the New Zealand Defense Forces (NZDF) on a tour of Captain Scott’s Discovery Hut.

Discovery Hut, located just to the west of McMurdo Station, was built in February 1902 by the members of Captain Robert F. Scott’s Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904. Built of Australian jarrah wood according to a design used to keep cool in the Australian Outback, the hut turned out to be too cold to live in. As a result, the hut was used for storage, emergency shelter and a theater to keep the crew’s morale up. The crew actually lived aboard the Discovery, in Winter Quarters Bay where the current ice pier is located.

Captain Scott's Discovery Hut at Hut Point, Ross Island, Antarctica.

Captain Scott's Discovery Hut at Hut Point, Ross Island, Antarctica.

The artifacts inside the hut remain in fairly good condition considering some have been there for a hundred years. The cold, dry air prevents decay. There are also no vermin or other pests to destroy the building or its contents. While Scott and his men failed to reach the South Pole on this journey, Discovery Hut provided as an emergency shelter and a supply depot for later expeditions, including Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913. While they reached the Pole, they did so a month after Amundsen and his team from Norway. Scott and his men died on the way back. Discovery Hut was used as a base for the search party that located the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers.

Inside Discovery Hut.

Inside Discovery Hut.

Seal blubber.

Seal blubber.

Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913 was based at Cape Evans, about 14 miles north of Hut Point. Discovery Hut was used as an advance camp for the southern journeys. After positioning supplies at depots for the late 1911 attempt at the Pole, sixteen men lived in the hut from March 5 to April 21, 1911. In addition to the search parties for those who didn’t return from the Pole, eight men occupied the hut while they erected the Memorial Cross atop Observation Hill, from January 20-21, 1913.

Various supplies, including oil cans.

Various supplies, including oil cans.

During the Discovery Expedition, Scott and Dr. Wilson brought Shackleton back to Hut Point after being stricken with scurvy. Shackleton was then sent home as an invalid, creating his rivalry with Scott. Shackleton then organized his own expedition to the South Pole. Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition of 1907-1909 was based at Cape Royds, about 20 miles to the north of Hut Point, but used Discovery Hut for storage and as an advance camp. Shackleton again used the hut during his and Mackintosh’s Aurora Expedition from 1915-1917. Several men spent five months recovering from scurvy at Discovery Hut. Two of them, Mackintosh and Hayward, attempted to reach Cape Evans, 14 miles to the north, over thin sea ice. A storm blew the ice out to sea and the two were never seen again.

Food on the stove, probably from Shackleton's Aurora Expedition 1915-1917.

Food on the stove, probably from Shackleton's Aurora Expedition 1915-1917.

Underbriches.

Underbriches.

Included in the supplies brought by ship at the beginning of the expeditions was livestock, some of which still remains in the hut.

Delicious Mutton. (Sheep and other animals were brought on ships at the beiginning of expeditions.)

Delicious Mutton.

These early Antarctic expeditions provided much in the way of scientific discovery. Oceanography, meteorology, biology, geology and other scientific disciplines were studied in addition to attempts at the South Pole.

Penguin bones.

Bones.

“We must always remember with gratitude and admiration the first sailors who steered their vessels through storms and mists, and increased our knowledge of the lands of ice in the South.” ~ Roald Amundsen. (1872-1928)

Cargo Ship M/V American Tern at the Ice Pier

The cargo ship M/V American Tern has been at McMurdo Station’s ice pier since Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. Hundreds of containers of cargo have been offloaded, and many containers of recyclables, waste and reusable materials and equipment will be loaded aboard for transport back to society. Depending on the type of waste, it may be a couple of years before it reaches the proper landfill.

M/V American Tern.

M/V American Tern.

Cargo containers with retrograde cargo (cargo that is going back) are positioned near the ice pier and along Hut Point Road, which is closed to pedestrians during vessel operations.

Waste, recyclable, or reusable cargo ready to be removed from McMurdo.

Waste, recyclable, or reusable cargo ready to be removed from McMurdo.

Containers waiting to be loaded on ship. Trucks waiting for cargo. Note fuel tender.

Containers waiting to be loaded on ship. Trucks waiting for cargo. Note fuel tender.

More containers awaiting departure along the Hut Point Road.

More containers awaiting departure along the Hut Point Road.

Cargo offloading and loading is handled by NAVCHAPs, Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group. I think there are around a hundred of them here and they are obviously involved in some serious business: the bars are closed during vessel operations. I’m not sure if this is strictly to avoid alcohol related incidents or if there is some motivation involved. “Finish with the cargo and you can drink again!” Yaaaay! Everybody wins!

Cargo container being offloaded.

Cargo container being offloaded.

During vessel operations, McMurdo Station is busy 24 hours a day until the job is done. The planning and logistics behind it all must be fairly complicated, but cargo, fleet ops (heavy equipment operators), NAVCHAPs, and everyone else involved in unloading, sorting and warehousing everything does a tremendous job.

View of McMurdo from Ob Hill. The darker roads are the most used cargo routes. They have been wet down to control dust.

View of McMurdo from Ob Hill. The darker roads are the most used cargo routes. They have been wet down to control dust.

While most of the cargo is sorted and stowed where it belongs before anyone sees it, I was able to get a couple of photos of the important stuff:

New ambulances for McMurdo Station.

New ambulances for McMurdo Station.

Potato chips and Milano cookies.

Potato chips and Milano cookies.

Working the night shift in Antarctica can at times be a lonely affair. Fortunately I had a friend to watch the offloading with me for a little while.

Skua.

Skua.