Thursday, September 18, 2008

Working outside

McMurdo Station is next to a large ocean bay that freezes dozens of feet thick every winter, and thaws out in summers. This is helped along every spring by a giant icebreaker ship that makes its way through the ice layer, readying the bay for the cargo ships that deliver supplies and pick up our well-sorted trash and recyclables. When the sea ice starts breaking up, orcas and other types of whales will be surfacing and playing around in this water, along with the seals that are already starting to show up (they chew through the ice wherever they find cracks). Maybe penguins too! But for now this sea ice is basically treated as land... The airfield is on it now; it's where my plane landed. And various scientific structures are being built on it, as well.

This last week I got to finally do some work outside on the sea ice building a Jamesway (Korean War-era military tents) for researchers to hold and study seals. It was great to be outside and be (just slightly, maybe a quarter mile) out of town for work. I felt really cold for the first time! (I kept thinking that 0 degrees wasn't really so bad as long as I had my parka and hat on, but that was when I was only outside long enough to walk from the cafeteria to the carp shop. Once I was outside for several hours straight trying to drill with heavy-lined gloves and a slight wind storm picking up on the ice, things were a little more frustrating!) But overall I loved it... exactly the kind of polar experience I came down here for. Also a nice preview of how it'll be when I get to work in the field camps much, much further away from McMurdo and for much longer periods of time.
Here's the track truck I get to drive down to the ice.
Jamesway on left, funky orange shack-on-skis on right.
The carp crew in front of our completed Jamesway.

Inside Myway (with Ezra from Flagstaff, one of my favorite people down here so far)

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