- Part 1: To Antarctica: Almost there!
- Part 2: To Antarctica: Almost ALMOST there
- Part 3: To Antarctica: Third time’s (not) the charm!
- Part 4: To Antarctica: Frolicking in coastal New Zealand
- Part 5: To Antarctica: We made it!
- Part 6: To Antarctica: -50˚C wind chill, Sea Ice training
- Part 7: To Antarctica: Drills (big and small), Skidoos (and ski-don’ts), ice SCUBA (-2˚C), and Seals (Weddels!)
It’s cold here. really cold. really really cold.
I was raised in San Diego and am currently based out of Santa Barbara. “Cold” means 50˚F. For the first two days here, walking outside without a beanie gave me a slight brain freeze. Spending 30 seconds outside without gloves was a bad mistake. I’ve never been anywhere this cold for any amount of time.
The temperature since I’ve gotten here has hovered around -20˚C ~ -30˚C with wind chill. The wind here changes temperatures significantly.
This is our lab space here in the Cracy Science Labs. Small compared to what we have at home, but still very usable. But onto the bad weather…This is what a typical overcast day here looks like. Here is an image of Crary Lab from the outside, with the street name “Beeker Street”. Scientists here are called “Beakers”, a somewhat derogatory term stemming from the days of high military presence on the base. And here’s what it looks like when the wind really picks up. Those trucks are probably 30 feet behind Gretchen and AK, and are starting to become obscured by flurries. And finally, a photo of our dorm! That’s Kevin, a stone’s throw from our barely-visible dorm building. The white-out conditions make it so that you can’t see the next building over. The whole base was declared “Condition 2”, which is a warning condition that restricts travel outside of the base to certain locations. October 10: Sea Ice Training.
This is the part with the great photos!
(understatement. It was GORGEOUS OUT. first blue skies!)
As I stated previously, the ocean in front of McMurdo Station is annually covered in a 6 foot thick sheet of ice. It’s currently Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, so the extent of this annual ice is as its thickest and furthest. For our research, we travel on this ice over the ocean to collect organisms and ocean chemistry data at different sites.
Working on the sea ice can have its hazards, but they can be avoided with good preparation and diligence. Different parts of the ice contract and expand, forming and sealing cracks that can be obscured by snow – just like plate tectonics! Ridges and rifts form and reform, and must be measured each time to ensure that your vehicle can travel across them safely.
Our sea ice class is designed to teach us just that! We travel over the ice on marked paths, inspecting cracks in the ice by measuring the width and ice thickness.
We get to a crack that needs to be assessed for safety. The first step is to shovel away the 3 foot deep snow to expose the sea ice. Then we pull out an engine-powered echo drill with a 6-foot drill bit to punch holes in the sea ice.
After learning how to analyze sea ice cracks, we extend our survival knowledge by learning how to pitch a tent on the sea ice. You can’t hammer tent stakes into solid ice, so you drill angled holes in a V shape to thread the rope through. It creates a surprisingly strong hold!
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