Arrived on Ice!

I’m happy to report that I am finishing my fourth day in Antarctica. It’s been a busy time, so not much to post during the week. Maybe more over the weekend.

The Flight

We flew in on Monday, November 21st, aboard the last C-17 of the season. A C-17 is a massive cargo jet, but can only fly early in the season; later flights are on LC-130s, which are propeller planes, and thus somewhat slower. It’s a 5-hour flight (8-hours on an LC-130), but there’s more opportunity to get up and walk around than on a commercial flight.

Arriving at the special departure terminal, after catching a shuttle bus at 4:45 a.m.
Aboard the C-17, watching cargo loading through the giant back door.
Several dozen of us, all thrilled to finally arrive in Antarctica.

From here there’s an hour-ish slow, careful drive to town in a massive vehicle called the Kress. Then an arrival briefing, keys to your room, dinner, and waiting a few hours for your bags to be unloaded.

Ross Island

McMurdo Station is on Ross Island, a volcanic island hosting Mt. Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano. The contrast between black ice and white snow is incredibly striking. It’s a seaside community, but doesn’t feel like one: sea ice on one side, the continental ice shelf on the other.

I took a stroll out to Hut Point with some of the other SPIDER folks. Hut Point is a peninsula off Ross Island, named after the hut visible at center left. This hut was built in 1902, for the British National Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott. It is kept preserved as a historical site. So is the cross at right: a memorial for George Vinson, who perished here in that year.

The cluster of buildings on the far shore left of center are McMurdo station. The big brown buildings in the middle foreground of that cluster are our main dormitories. The sea ice is visible to the right. To get to the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility where I work we head straight ahead over the ridge – more on that another day.

The view from Hut Point back to McMurdo Station.

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