Home, Icy Home

So, I arrived in McMurdo on schedule on Monday, but I had some trouble getting my laptop onto the ‘Net. Here’s a post I wrote on the plane coming down, and here are some pictures from the journey and of the station itself.


Currently on the plane to McMurdo, just about at the midpoint between there and Christchurch. It is a very loud plane; everyone is wearing earplugs, so there’s not a great deal of conversation with one’s seatmates. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about the International Antarctic Centre and the “Antarctic Attraction” museum. (Incidentally, Antarctic Attraction would be a great name for a romance novel. A parka ripper, if you will.)

Christchurch evidently takes great pride in its status as “gateway to the Antarctic”. The tourist information center downtown even includes a small “Antarctic shop.” The actual International Antarctic Centre is out by the airport, and acts as a base for the New Zealand, U.S. and Italian Antarctic programs. I don’t know much about the Italian Antarctic program, but the Kiwi and American programs are quite neighborly, with New Zealand’s Scott Base being located just a couple of miles from McMurdo. (Our team actually has an invitation to dinner there tomorrow night.) According to my Lonely Planet Antartica guidebook, both bases sit on land to which New Zealand has laid claim. The status of Antarctic territorial claims and the Antarctic treaty are pretty fascinating topics in and of themselves, which I’ll address in another post.

The CDC (Clothing Distribution Centre) where they issued our gear is in the International Antarctic Centre right across from the Antarctic Attraction, so my advisor and I decided to go investigate and see how much they’d gotten right. (Most of it, as it turned out.)

The Little Blue penguins are indifferent to their admirers.

We got there just as they were feeding the Little Blue penguins. Twenty or so birds–rescued from predators, car accidents, or parental abandonment–make up the museum’s Little Blue penguin colony. It is worthwhile to note that while Little Blue penguins are widespread on the New Zealand coast, they are found nowhere in the Antarctic. Evidently the Antarctic Attraction felt that any penguins were better than no penguins at all.

Feeding a recalcitrant penguin. Since they are all rescues, they tend to be invalids to a greater or lesser degree. A few have missing or paralyzed flippers and therefore a tendency to swim in circles.

The Antarctic Attraction also features a simulated Antarctic storm, taking place inside a refrigerated Antarctic landscape held at around -5 C/20 F. The windchill gets down to about -25C/-20F during the storm, which is respectably nippy but distinctly unimpressive to Alaskan sensibilities. I found the ice slide much more entertaining.

Museum visitors relax after their harrowing artificial ordeal.

Once upon a time, clipart dinosaurs roamed the Antarctic.

Everybody loves penguins! Remember, penguins in the Antarctic, polar bears in the Arctic. It is interesting to ponder whether, if introduced to the opposite pole, either species would thrive.

More bits of exhibit.


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One Response to “Home, Icy Home”

  1. Sara S. Says:

    “Parka-ripper!” Love it.

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