Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Another busy day, all cargo processed!

Unfortunately no pictures from today- we were so busy getting everything done that I didn't think to snap any pictures.  Lets see- we started the day with some more training- our Environmental training (don't spill stuff on Antarctica) was the last in our required set of courses. 

Then we got busy, finding the last-minute items, packing them up, and in particular pulling out our FOOD!  Our goal is to spend about a week at Roosevelt Island, but given the way the weather is there, we're bringing a month's supply of food.  So that took most of the afternoon to get it all squared away. 

In the end, we have lifted, moved, packaged, weighed, measured, and tagged 2,578 pounds of cargo.  Now all we need is a plane in which to load it!  I meet with the flight coordinator to discuss this tomorrow; the most important piece of what we will discuss will be our ACL, or 'allowable cabin load', how much stuff we can safely put on the plane, which depends on the distance being flown, expected weather, and the conditions at the site.  Our ACL will be somewhere between 2,000 and 4,500 pounds.  Given that we've packed already over 2,500, and the three passengers and our gear will add another 600, if they want us to shave our weight down to 2,000, we'll have some very interesting conversations tomorrow! 

But I hope that won't happen.  Stay tuned to see if it does!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Day 2: Training, Training, Training!

Today we started a barrage of training:  light vehicle training, waste management training, fire safety training, light vehicle walkaround, field safety training...

In between it all we managed to get our communications gear and our generators, and package up some more of our equipment.  Soon we'll be ready to head out! 

And this evening we went over food.  That's one of the last things we need to collect and get packaged up.  We hope to be at Roosevelt Island only 7 days, but we're bringing about 30 days worth of food, as the weather out there is notoriously bad for getting flights in, and we want to be sure we don't go hungry waiting for a plane!  Tomorrow: pulling food, and packing up the last of our gear.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Productive first day in MacTown

On Sundays, most of McMurdo Station takes the day off.  As we arrived on station late on a Saturday evening, our first chance to get to some of the offices we need to work with to get our show on the road won't come until  tomorrow morning.  But we need to get turned around and get to Roosevelt Island as soon as possible, so we didn't sit idle.  We managed to find our cargo, check out our tents and camping gear, and get much of it packed up, loaded on a pallet, weighed and measured and ready to load on to the aircraft:

One half of our gear.  There's also a bunch of tents and other equipment.  And still to come are generators and radios, which we couldn't get on a Sunday.  But tomorrow's another day!  And it will be filled with training.  I'll report on it then!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Made it to McMurdo!

After another day's delay (that's why you didn't see a post from me yesterday...) we finally took off today.  It was a full flight, 103 passengers, and even a C-17 gets crowded with that many folks. 

But we made good time, arriving at McMurdo about 5 1/2 hours later.  Now we get to start checking out our gear, moving cargo around, and participating in more training...

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Further delays, walking around Christchurch...

When traveling to the ice, it's not uncommon to meet up with many others, also making the journey.  I sometimes start seeing other Antarctic program folks as early as LA, but more often in Sydney or Auckland, and definitely in Christchurch.  By now, in Christchurch, there are a few dozen participants (at least) trying to go South. 

So it's not that uncommon to hear the rumor that a flight has been delayed or cancelled, and the phone call came for me in late morning.  So now we're currently scheduled another day out, meaning hopefully flying on Saturday.  Of course they haven't gotten so formal as to give us a flight time yet, so I'm considering this quite tentative. 

I spent most of the day walking today, around town.  In the morning I went in search of a good bakery, and ended up with a ~3 mile round-trip:
The pie at the bakery was well worth the walk! 

Then in the afternoon I wanted to get down to see the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, which I've always enjoyed.  Then I went over to take a look at the progress on rebuilding the city centre (as they spell it here), stopped in at re:start, an outdoor mall made entirely out of shipping containers.    It's amazing what they do with shipping containers in this city.  Also along the way, it was really neat to see how they've brought art into the public spaces that are left open where buildings have been removed- the GapFiller project in particular hosts a wide variety of items, including one that I passed, the 'dance-o-mat' which is a dance floor with amplified speakers and lighting, coin operated and you plug in your own music player.  Of course it uses the chassis of a washing machine to house the electronics. 

It turned out to be a relatively long walk, but again, well worth it!  The total for the day ended up at around 11 miles...  nice to stretch my legs after all that flying!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time Travel and the standard SNAFU

Flying from LAX to Sydney, a 14+ hour trip, there's plenty of time to think about time zones and the international date line...

The first chunk of the trip to the Antarctic is now complete.  It all started with a 3-hour bus ride to Logan Airport, then a 6-hour flight to LA, 4-hour layover, then 14 hours to Sydney, then 3.5 hours in Auckland...  and customs in Auckland was slow enough that I missed the last flight of the day to Christchurch.  Delay point number one!  Overnight in Auckland.  Then the next day, I arrived in Christchurch, got issued my Extreme Cold Weather gear, and headed for the hotel, with plans to arrive the next morning at 8:30 to check in for the flight to the ice.  

No such luck!  at around midnight I was awakened by the phone, and the night clerk informed me that we'd been given a 24-hour delay, and that since my hotel was fully booked I'd move to another one.  So now I'm itinerant in Christchurch!

So that's the standard SNAFU.  But why did I label this post with time travel?  Well, crossing the international date line on a flight like this is pretty close to time travel; crossing 17 time zones and the international date line, we lose almost 2 days; it turns out that for most of October 26, 2014, I did not exist!  Even crazier is that the long flight left LAX at 11:50 pm, and arrived in Sydney at 8:30 am.  I got to thinking where the sun was while we were flying, and realized that the sunrise was following us, racing us, and we were losing!  I then went about thinking about how "fast" the sunrise moves around the world.  Well, the Earth revolves at 15 degrees per hour, and on the Equator, a minute of longitude is a nautical mile, so a degree is 60, making 15 degrees 900 nautical miles, meaning the sunrise races around the Earth at 900 knots!  No wonder it can beat a jet airplane...

Ok, signing off for now; better luck for us tomorrow perhaps!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Back to the Antarctic! Roosevelt Island, 2014

I'm headed South again.  This fall, I will attempt once again to actually get to Roosevelt Island, the location of the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution (RICE) project.  Our work there this season will involve geophysical borehole logging of the borehole that's left over from the ice-coring operation that was completed in 2012 (some of you will remember my ill-fated attempt to get to Roosevelt Island in January of 2013...

Hope things go better this time.  We'll be going in light, with a crew of three: myself, Dartmouth senior David Clemes-Sewall, and Maurice Conway, a highly experienced Kiwi field mountaineer.  We hope to be onsite for only a week or so, but if you check out my last attempt, you will see that weather trumps all down there. 
Here's where we're trying to get; a small ice-rise in the Ross Ice Shelf.  But first, I take a bus to Boston (I'm writing this on that same bus), then fly to LA, to Syndey, to Aukland, NZ, to Christchurch, NZ, wait (hopefully only) a day in Christchurch, and then to McMurdo station, Antarctica.  Then the really challenging flying is getting out to the Island.  Stay Tuned!