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Checking in from McMurdo Station

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  • Checking in from McMurdo Station

    I'm just checking in to let you all know I'm wintering at McMurdo this year.

    I had thought that I would be wintering at Pole, but there was some miscommunication and I'm not there. I'll be checking in from time to time.

  • #2
    Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

    Hi Alan, hope you have a good winter. When does it officially start? I guess it's not simply a case of the last supply ship of the winter with the number of flights these days.

    Originally posted by Alan
    I had thought that I would be wintering at Pole, but there was some miscommunication and I'm not there.
    This made me laugh a lot - good to hear that Antarctica is as "otherworldly" as ever in all ways.


    • #3
      Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

      Hey Alan, Good luck on the winter over, what is yer job down there??? Do keep us posted on the McMurdo scene...I was there from '89-'92 summers at the MEC workin' on the beakers' equipment. Is this yer 1st deploy, or what???


      • #4
        Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

        Winter this year officially began with last flight on the 21st. If necessary, they could fly in to McMurdo pretty much all year, though local weather may cause delays of a week or so. Some years they have an extended season, with a last flight in late March or so - but not this year. The next flight should be in August, for WinFly - the Winter Fly-in, where a few flights will bring in the personnel necessary to get things ready for mainbody in October.

        Currently it's still quite warm here - temperatures above 0 F.

        Otherwise . . . yes, as "otherworldly" as always. It can be quite frustrating at times dealing with the bureaucracy.

        So, Fast Eddie - were you a science tech then? I'm working down here as an electrician. It's a good job - we get to go almost everywhere. This is my second deployment - I did Summer 2007-08, 3 weeks at McMurdo and 3 months at South Pole Station.

        The building with the bowling alley has been closed down due to structural problems . . . and so ends the history of what had been the oldest operating bowling alley in the world. Well, some folks are trying to save it, but we'll see what happens. There have been budget cuts, and what was left of the budget was hit hard by increases in fuel costs. Because the buildings are all federally owned buildings, the draconian anti-smoking laws in the U.S. require smokers to go outside to smoke. Not so bad now, but come July . . . well, I'm glad I don't smoke.

        Anything you want to know in particular?


        • #5
          Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

          Hi Alan, my job was officially called small equipment mechanic, I think. I worked in the same shop as the snowmobile mechanic, the MEC it was called back then. I think it may have been torn down and replaced by now. I worked on generators, hermies, air compressors and stuff for the scientists(beakers)...was pretty cool, got out to the remote sites on helos, dry valleys several times, helped with the snowmobiles, so that was even more out on some sorta illegal escapades on the snowmobiles to a couple of the historic huts, cape evans and royds I think it was. Never did winter, not sure I would've wanted to...ok, maybe once just so I could say I did it! My brother followed my lead and got on for a few seasons, he wintered over twice, he's never been the same...hehehe...I still dream about being down there once in a while, one last time would be cool, but my wife would prolly leave me if I did! I worked with electricians getting generators set up in the field, have fun and report back on the good stuff...take care, Ed


          • #6
            Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

            I was over at the MEC (Mechanical Equipment Center) earlier today. It is one of the newer buildings, so it's probably not the same one you remember. They share a space with the SSC (Science Support Center).

            But most of the buildings in Mactown are showing their age, so you would probably recognize most of the town. Maybe not Crary Science Labs and a few other newer buildings, and when they put the windmills up next summer that will be new, but most of it is probably the same.


            • #7
              McMurdo - 14 inches of snow

              Believe it or not, that's a record for a 24 hour period in April - at least, that's what I was told. Apparently the previous record was set in the 1960's, when there was 10 inches of snow.

              Sunday and Monday I didn't leave the building at all - Monday travel was severely limited, due to high winds. Today the weather is better (still a little windy at times, and in spots), but there's a lot of snow to clear. On the road along the shore the drifts are up to five or six feet high. The entrance to medical has been cleared now, but this morning drifts of about four feet blocked the doors.

              For any who might know what Hut Ten is (a small building for recreational use), a couple windows broke in the storm and the whole place filled with snow. It's amazing how much snow can make its way through closed doors and windows - quite a few doors have had to be cleared from the inside before they could be opened, with piles of snow two or three feet preventing the doors from opening. Yes, these are inward swinging doors. Even the freezer type doors were not entirely immune, though they did noticeably better.

              Anyways, I'll have to send some pictures later. Quite something to see.


              • #8
                Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                I will be summering in Anchorage Alaska and getting ready to salmon and trout fish for 90 days or so.

                I will aldo be headed for Spruce Island out of Kodiak.


                • #9
                  Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                  My other is: William(Bill) Wurthmann for Anticartic cool.


                  • #10
                    Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                    Hi Alan, that sounds very impressive!

                    I guess many people don't realise that it doesn't actually snow all that much in Antarctica, it tends not to melt for months on end though (if at all) and blows about a lot in the meantime making it seem like there's much more around than there really is.

                    I guess as it's April, you'll now have that kicking around all winter now - look forwards to the pictures.


                    • #11
                      Another storm, a newer record . . . kind of

                      One week after the first storm, we had a second storm. Stronger winds this time, or at least more wind damage. It knocked out power several times (Nathan our lineman does an excellent job repairing lines, but couldn't quite keep up during the storm), tore some roofing off Bldg 125 (which is closed for the winter anyhow), and blew around an awful lot of snow. Of course, we have backup generators, and even though our aging buildings leak out heat and leak in snow at least they are built like tanks and aren't really in much danger from the wind.

                      Officially, we beat the old record that we just set a week ago - 20 inches for this storm, 14 inches for the last storm, and the previous record for a 24 hour period in April had been 10 inches. That said, while I'm sure the snow gauge is as good as they come, I'm not sure exactly what it was measuring - snow falling on McMurdo, or snow that just happened to be traveling through town. We got some deep drifts and a good bit of snow, but this 20 inches seems to have been less than the 14 inches we got previously.

                      Of course, snow in Antarctica is like sand in the desert . . . the wind might lay it down one day and pick it up the next. Frequently I see raised footprints above the snow, and today I got some good pictures of raised footprints on the ground. The wind laid down the snow, someone walked on the snow and compressed it where they stepped, and then the wind came along again and picked up all the unpacked snow, scouring the earth clean except for the foot-packed snow. Add a little snow forming in drifts around those footprints, and it's a rather odd looking thing.

                      There were also two small fires in the Fire House, which disrupted communications at a critical time. It made for an eventful evening.


                      • #12
                        Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                        I used to love the raised footprints - I've never seen them any where but Antarctica. We used to use cross country skis quite a lot, so raised ski tracks were quite common too in suitable conditions - my favourites are raised dog tracks though:


                        Fires in the fire house! Did you make that up?


                        • #13
                          Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                          Nice picture of the raised paw prints.

                          No, I'm not making up the two fires in the Fire House.

                          I got more information today: an electrical appliance and the UPS that powered the dispatcher's computers. We had a number of problems with winds whipping around the power lines and causing arcing and the like - I'm guessing that it induced some powerful surges that set both items on fire. It may not help that the Fire House is a rather aging building with an aging electrical system too. At least the UPS managed to protect the computer from the surge, but they're not supposed to catch fire while doing so.

                          In fact, that's a general problem here. We have four buildings that I am aware of that are less than twenty years old. Many date to the 1950's and 1960's, and were built at a time when ideas like insulation were considered silly. The Fire House, for example, is a metal building with very little insulation, and many buildings have single pane, drafty windows. A few buildings have been retrofitted or remodeled to varying degrees of success, but the whole station suffers from poor planning - or, rather, NO planning - 50 years ago. Now the whole system has inertia, and it is impossible to change course.

                          Well, we're pretty much dug out now, but like you said - now that the snow has once arrived, it just keeps getting re-circulated.


                          • #14
                            Re: Checking in from McMurdo Station

                            I'll keep it short. Thank you for the fire infomation...The thing was also one of my favorite sci fi flicks, but it took place in the North Pole...James Arnes from gun smoke played the monster...
                            Have a great week.
                            Bill W.