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November 14th, 2013 - McMurdo Station, Antarctica

More Training and Some Exercise

by Terry Palmer

 

Today started out with a brisk walk to Hut Point and back with Steve.  Hut Point is a small piece of land 300 m from the station that juts out onto the sea ice, past the ice pier (where the ship docks once a year).  Hut Point gets its name from a wooden hut that sits near the point.  The hut is probably the oldest standing structure in the region and was built by Robert Falcon Scott and his crew in 1902.  I can tell you more about the hut when we get a chance to explore the inside of it later in the season.

A view of the sea ice from the station. Hut Point is on the right.

The walk to the point was chilly but we didn't feel the full brunt of the weather until we reached the end of the point, where we were the most exposed.  When we walked, the temperature was 18 deg F (-8 deg C) and the wind at least 10 mi/hr (>16 km/hr).  This equates to a wind chill of close to 6 deg F (-14 deg C).  Steve and I underestimated the cold a little and didn't wear all of our cold weather gear but we made it back safe and sound.

After this awakening jaunt, we had more training to do.  We learned about environmental waste and where to put our rubbish, radios and who to call when we go in the field, and the Crary Lab (in which we are situated) and safety procedures.  But by lunchtime, we were all finished.

In the afternoon, we all had computer work to do so that was fairly uneventful.  Andrew and Mary also played with the GPS unit a little to get that ready for upcoming work.

Mary and Andrew testing the GPS unit

 

Flags blowing in the wind in front of the Chalet (Ob Hill in the background)

 

A helicopter carrying a load to the helicopter pad

After work, I decided to attend one of the many exercise classes that they offer here in one of the exercise rooms.  Then after dinner and we all did a bit more computer work.

Before I left the lab to go to bed, I looked outside and the weather looked really nice. So I postponed bed time and took a 9 pm walk up Observation Hill, a 754 ft (230 m) mound.  I didn't bring a camera but I can tell you that the views over the sea ice and towards Mt. Erebus were amazing. I even saw the edge of the sea ice, where open water starts. The edge of the sea ice is roughly 19 miles (31 km) north of us at the moment.

 A fellow hiker at the top of Ob Hill

The view of McMurdo Station from Ob Hill

Going  to sleep in my wobbly bunk was no problem after a fun and energy-sapping day.

extra...

by Mary Tilton

 

 This morning’s training was for researchers going to the Dry Valleys. Yes, there are places without snow here. The McMurdo Dry Valleys are complex areas of desert with an extremely fragile ecosystem where the soil is rich in bacteria. Since our group will be conducting research in a few of these areas, this training was a requirement. To minimize impact on the environment, everything you bring with you must be brought back with you, including all human waste. You literally must follow in the person’s footprints in front of you. There are several regulations and rules in place to keep the Dry Valleys intact and as pristine as possible. One wrong move could disrupt an entire species’ existence. No pressure!  

Then, we met with MacOps  (MacMurdo Operations) for a briefing on where we are planning to travel in the Dry Valleys, which repeaters to use while there, and how to communicate via VHF radio.

Later in the afternoon, we got our GPS backpack, which had a pretty complicated setup. This wire goes there, that wire goes somewhere else, and we’re not sure where these go. After everything was connected and all of our GPS points were loaded, we took it outside and tested it. There was some difficulty getting the device to work properly, so we postponed testing until after we could get some help on fixing our issue. Of course, after we brought the GPS issue up to a technician, it worked perfectly. Now we have a functioning GPS to get us to our sampling areas!