Mactown Arrivals

And here I am! My journey was fairly uneventful, aside from all the earthquakes, about which more later. Here’s something I wrote on the plane down:

“I’m writing this from a C-17, very much like the one I flew in last year–or perhaps it is indeed the same plane. We’re a little less than four hours into a five-hour journey; I spent the first few hours asleep, making up for having awoken at 4:45 AM in order to catch the shuttle to the airport.”

At the terminal bright and early, with luggage. Probably I am happy because I am wearing Carhartt coveralls, widely admired by Alaskans.

My colleague Martin Schneebeli, also in his cold-weather gear, with the Antarctic Center behind him.

“There are a few dozen other people on the plane with me. Many of them are on their second attempt at getting to McMurdo, since their original flight boomeranged. A flight that boomerangs is one that has to turn back before it gets to McMurdo; in many cases these flights make it within sight of the station before they decide that visibility is too poor or the weather is otherwise too iffy to make a landing. Often this happens multiple times in a row; I believe the record is seven successive boomerangs. So we’ve all got our fingers crossed.”

Passengers and cargo.

It’s amazing how much a single trip to Antarctica has made me feel like a seasoned old hand; I have been handing out advice to all the first-timers with great enthusiasm. McMurdo Station is just the same as it was before, in some ways, and completely different in others. For instance, since the solstice was just last week, there’s brilliant sunlight every hour of every day. It’s extremely warm–it’s been above freezing most of the time we’ve been here, between 32 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and the station is all brown rocks and dust with only occasional struggling patches of snow.

Practically tropical.

Little rivers run down the hillsides. I’ve been following the local custom and running around in shirtsleeves most of the time, with the occasional light jacket if it’s windy.

Compare bright-lit, snowless Ob Hill now...


...with the Ob Hill of last spring. (albeit from the other side of the hill.)

My advisor Steve and the rest of the team got down here several weeks ago to do the first foray into the field. They were supposed to get back to McMurdo the same day I arrived, but they are still stuck out on the ice sheet, trapped by poor weather conditions. (Actually, I spoke to them by satellite phone today, and they told me that from their perspective the weather is better than it has been for a while, insofar as it’s not windy; it’s just too cloudy/foggy for the planes to be able to land.)

Tune in next time when I will explain more about our science plans!

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