Monday, August 13, 2018

Women of Wisconsin!

Very strange fact: Of the 26 (27 after last month's flight) on station this winter, 6 of us (nearly a quarter!) are from Wisconsin. Definitely a statistical anomaly, but kind of fun, so we all got together for a picture the other weekend.

Here are the McMurdo Winter 2018 Lady Cheeseheads!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Weekly Snapshot #24

I know this photo looks a little gloomy and the temp doesn't exactly look balmy, but it's actually SO nice out. It feels warm and the cloud cover is diffusing the mid-day light so it looks uncannily bright out and it's just a weirdly lovely day. I think that's about it from me. I fly outta here two months from today and I think it's going to come way too soon. We're just enjoying our last couple weeks of real winter before the shoulder season starts and things start to get a little crazy....

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Weekly snapshot #23

I'm suddenly having a memory of the springtime at Pole, as light started to come back into the sky, and every week I thought, "Geez, it's so BRIGHT out," I was feeling like I might be blinded, and the sun hadn't even risen yet. That feeling is back now. The other day someone asked me if we sell sunglasses in the store, and a bystander said, "Sunglasses? What do you need SUNglasses for?" And we all stood around perplexed for a moment with our winter brains till the inquirer said, "Well...I mean...the sun is going to come up soon, right?" And then I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to imagine where in my room I stashed the sunglasses that I had with me all the time for the first month+ that I was here. The times, they are a-changin'.

Though the sky is getting brighter by the day--and the actual first sunrise of the spring is just a couple weeks away--the temps are some of the lower we've had this winter and there's lots of complaining going on about the cold. Which always seems funny to me in Antarctica. Even here, where it's cold and you know it's going to be cold, people don't get tired of commenting on and complaining about it....

Monday, July 30, 2018


This isn't a McMurdo-related post...but those of you who have been reading along for awhile might remember pictures and posts I made about the Ice Cube observatory at South Pole during my seasons there, such as this one.

Excitingly, Ice Cube has recently published some important astronomical findings based on data gathered at Pole last year. You can read more about it here.

Also, here's an article just released on a project currently in progress right here at McMurdo.

As we like to say around here (sometimes facetiously, sometimes in total earnestness): "Science!"

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Weekly snapshot #22

I told you it was on the way, and here it is!!: You can see some light in the sky in this week's snapshot! Such a HUGE difference from last week, eh?

And look how insanely warm out it is:

Seriously? Nine degrees in Antarctica in the wintertime? It's weird. And the chances are dwindling that I'll get to experience one of Antarctica's famed winter storms. On the other hand, glass-half-full friends who have spent winters here before tell me that usually, when the weather is stormy/crappy, you don't get to see/enjoy the light starting to come back into the sky, and you can go for days or weeks without (or miss out completely on) sights like this. Which is every afternoon for us these days:

Despite the excitement of the changing skies, I am sad to see the darkness go, if you want to know the truth. This has been a great experience here this winter, and it's gone far too quickly. So I'm glad we also have sights like this: the full-ish moon (the orb on the left; the smaller one on the right is a streetlamp), picture taken at 10am this morning, just three hours before I took the one at the top where the sky had turned all pink...

Monday, July 23, 2018

A good week to be in Antarctica

Exciting times at McMurdo this past week...

First, I got to go out to Phoenix runway (about a 30-minute drive from the base) for star-gazing with a stellar group of people. And that pun is intended, because wow, the stars. And the auroras! We got super-lucky with those, too.

Credit and thanks to Chef D for these photos (I'm in the puffy, yellow jacket):

Then, a couple days later (on July 19), the flight that was supposed to have been on June 27 FINALLY arrived. Twenty-five people were very happy to finally get to leave Antarctica, three weeks later than scheduled, and we got a roughly equal number of new people in, which meant fresh energy (and germs, but let's focus on the positive)--not to mention fresh food and mail, which is all just plain good for the soul.

And it was ridiculously exciting to see the plane come in, the specially trained pilots navigating by night vision and half the remaining station members out at Phoenix runway to greet the flight in their capacities as passenger transport, cargo, etc.

You can see the lights of the incoming aircraft in this picture as the three dots clustered together to the left and slightly up from the puff of the smoke coming from the power plant.

And here are some station-mates (with whom I was helping to receive and sort freshies as they were unpacked from a pallet on the galley dock) enjoying the first banana we've seen in months. This is a very big deal for us...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Weekly snapshot #21

It's actually been a very eventful week at McMurdo, which I'll tell you all about in my next post. But today is a kind of a rote, mundane snapshot, sorry!

As a bonus to tide you over till the next update in a few days, here's a picture I took yesterday in the early afternoon. SOOOO much light in the sky already! And I'm told that the nacreous clouds that are a beautiful feature of the sunrise season here in McMurdo are one of the highlights of wintering here, and that they're starting unusually early this year. So here's to many more posts of pictures with skies as colorful--and more--than this one...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Waste Water Treatment Plant

Much more so than South Pole, McMurdo is a town. There are dozens of buildings scattered in this little nook of volcanic rock on Ross Island, and those include the kinds of municipal services you'd have in any small town: the fire department, a power plant, and so on.

Last week I got to take a tour of the Waste Water Treatment Plant, which was really fun to see and learn about at long last (considering I've now spent a total of nearly 6 months in McMurdo between this season and passing through on my South Pole contracts).

We got to check out a video feed of the digestive bacteria that we all so generously donate to the plant along with the rest of our..."deposits" (ahem) into the system.

They carry on their work in the festive (for them) environment of the processing tanks...

...and the remaining, irradiated solid waste gets passed through what (to my still-limited understanding) is essentially a dehydrator...

...and then end up as relatively harmless chunks of soil-looking material that gets packaged up in tri-walls and shipped off-continent on the vessel each year. You can tell it was a fun, interesting tour by the way there are more than a half-dozen people in this picture staring raptly at what is essentially poop.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Weekly snapshot #20

You can't tell from the normal snapshot, but in the early afternoons, on the horizon out toward the sea, the sky is having longer and longer periods of looking like this:

A definite sign of our days of darkness dwindling.

This feels funny to me because in the past week, it's finally started to really feel like winter here, temperature-wise. It's been consistently colder than -20F, I saw a -40F on the weather screen yesterday, and for the first time in the 5 months I've been here, I switched from wearing my normal purple parka that I might wear on a cold day in a WI winter to wearing my Big Red issue jacket. That's saying something!

And you even get some heavy equipment that happened to be driving past in the frame of this snapshot. What a week!

Monday, July 9, 2018

July 4th on Ice

Despite the cold, wind, and dark, we celebrated the 4th of July in style at McMurdo. I am always kind of sad being away from Wisconsin on the 4th of July since my family has so many wonderful traditions and activities around that holiday. So it was nice to balance some of that nostalgia/melancholy with festivities here.

My McMurdo friend L, who is seriously awe-inspiring in her ability to rally and recruit people to participate in the fun events she likes to plan, spearheaded a 4th of July parade. It was the third annual such event at McMurdo and has to be the southernmost parade on the planet. Given the conditions, it lasted about 5 minutes and went for one block. But it gave me an inordinate amount of joy and energy and entertainment. L even made a video of the parade so you can see us in action down here. Just check it out using this YouTube link. I'm in the color guard (following the ambulance and baton twirler) and am the one in the purple jacket wearing the crazy pink and white wig. The whole thing is probably just going to look like a whole lot of inexplicable ridiculousness to you all at home, so sometime if you're actually interested, when I'm back, I will watch it with you and explain the back story and local significance of all the elements of this momentous event. :)