It’s a beautiful day here at McMurdo. The skies are clearing up and the mountians across the sea ice are fully in view. What a spectacular vista it is! The view from the Crary building (the largest science lab on the continent) is incredible. Across The McMurdo Sound to the Southwest, the Royal Society Range stretches out, marking the start of continental Antarctica. (For pictures, go to: Jason’s First Two Days in MacTown Gallery)
Yesterday it was overcast, and the view of the mountains was obscurred. I woke up just in time to miss breakfast (7:30am), so I ate cereal, which wasn’t bad since I don’t tend to eat breakfast. Lynette went off to winter camp (see her blog entry from Oct. 17). After breakfast, I took the hour-long orientation tour of McMurdo. Then, I met with Al (my supervisor at the Pole), and he introduced me to my equivalent at MCM. He’s an older gentleman named Steve, and he has a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He was nice enough to show me around during his daily checks. We started by driving up to Arrival Heights, which is a restricted area into which only people whow he approves can go. He told me it was a special treat to get to go up there and that most people would die to go. I was grateful to get that opportunity, even though it was overcast. Situated up on a hill, it was obvious that on a clear day, the view would be amazing.He showed me his daily chores and talked to me about the job, which involves monitoring several data collection workstations to make sure everything is running smoothly. This was especially useful since many of the experiements he monitors have sister experiments at the South Pole. I’m sure I’ll talk more about my job in future blogs, so I’ll spare the details for now. After that, Steve invited me to watch while he helped the meteorologists launch a weather balloon, another treat!
When we returned to station, I took a brief nap (I just wanted to lay down for a minute, but fell quickly asleep). I got up and went to dinner, then to an outdoor recreation class, which is a prerequisite to doing some of the cooler hikes and cross-country ski routes nearby. I then headed over the Gallagers with a few fellow Polies. Gallagers is a typical American bar, except that it was in Antarctica and didn’t allow smoking. We had a beer and played pool, then headed to the coffee house, which is a more mellow “bar” where they serve beer and wine (in addition to coffee, of course). We hung out for a while and had a bottle of decent wine, then headed to be around 11:30.
The following morning, I woke up a little earlier and had just enough time to catch the end of breakfast (where I had an omlette made to order). After breakfast, a group of Polies took a walk to Scott Hut, which is situated on a peninsula about a half mile from station. It’s a hut that was, as the name suggests, build during the first Scott expedition to Antarctica. On a hill above the hut is a cross, which was left as a memorial to a poor fellow who met his fate after slipping and falling over an ice cliff into the icy waters below. Sucky day for him, but as I said before, it was a beautiful day, and the view from his memorial, overlooking the bluish sea ice below and the Royal Society Mountains in the distance, is pretty remarkable, so that makes up for it to some extent. Perhaps he would feel differently! On the way back, we checked out Scua, a small room filled with hand-me-down items left by people didn’t want to bother taking them back with them when they went home, named after an Antarctic scavenger bird, much like a seagull. I didn’t find anything I liked.
After lunch, I headed to Crary, which was where we had our orientation on the first evening, to check out the view from the picture windows in the conference room. As I said before, it was incredible. The have a telescope set up so that you can take a closer look at the mountains and ice runway. While I was there, a C-17 was circling around, probably doing some training. At 2, I headed to the galley where there was a Polie All-Hands meeting. We were introduced to some key personell, and told how our first couple of days would go. After the meeting, several of us decided to climb Observation (Ob) Hill since it was such a nice day. I called Lynette’s room right before I left (and apparently just missed her returning… bummer). We headed up the side of the hill on the “trail”, which consisded of following the person’s footprints ahead of you. The climb itself is fairly strenuous and dangerous in places, but it’s not a particularly difficult climb since I’d say it’s not more than about 1/2 mile to the summit. The view from the top was certainly worth the effort. From there, Mount Erebus (an active volcano on Ross Island, the island on which McMurdo is located, about 20 miles from the station) was clearly visible and was spewing smoke as was it’s habbit, from what I hear. The summit was a nice overlook of McMurdo, as well as Scott station, the New Zeland station, which is on the opposit side of Ob Hill. And, of course, the view of the Royal Society Mountains and Ross Ice Sheet were impressive. I snapped a few shots and Emrys and I traded taking pictures of eachother. We started to get a bit cold and started back down. We quickly learned that it was easier to slid down the snow-covered portion on our butts. Sure, it made it more difficult for the next people to climb up, but it was clear that it was the preferred descent method for most people who climbed the hill. It was quite a bit of fun, and was much quicker than the hike up.Lynette was waiting at the bottom, waving at us when we got down. Although it had only been about 36 hours, it had seemed much longer, especially in this new and totally different place. It was quite a joyful reunion, and we did the whole slow-motion run and jump into eachother’s arms thing. I took a quick shower, got some dinner, then it was time for a party at Hut 10 that was thrown specially for the Polies. Hut 10 used to be the residence of the head officer in charge of the base when it used to be a military base. It looked more like a house than any of the other buildings or dorms, so it has a nice appeal, and can be reserved for special parties only. We had a few drinks and hung out, getting to know the people we’d be spending 4 months to a year with. At the end of the party, Lynette was looking for her boots and realized that someone had taken hers. So, she found another size 9 blue boot and took those instead. They didn’t fit as well as her previous pair, but she soon realized that there were two foot pads in the bottom of each boot. When she took out one of them, the fit much better, so all was well. It was a good time, but we were both fairly exhausted after our long days, so we headed back to our rooms and went do bed.-JRS