Monday, February 15, 2010

Onward to another kind of Light

I have so many pictures and as many stories but no more time. We have flights departing for the outside world almost daily. Mc Murdo Station has been shrinking in size since the 30th of January as hundreds are leaving weekly. My time will soon come too.

With me I'll take my most valuable possessions; memories of friends, Korean vampire movies, adventure, being cold, being very cold, and the power of the human spirit.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm on my own

For my friend Daniel in a tale of what could of been, but the future of origami is not dead. Strategically folded paper brings joy not only to its creator, but also to those who view its creation. And as for the woman who denied us such pleasure all those years ago, well she remains just where we left her, in the basement with long rows of tables full of paper and empty chairs.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Also known as the Raptor of the South. They're like seagulls, but bigger and more aggressive. These predators are afraid of nothing as they loiter outside building 155, that's where the galley is and they dive bomb anyone carrying a plate of food. They arrived in early November, raised their chicks and soon they'll be flying north like us.

Skua is also an exchange area of items you are looking to get rid of, and others you are in need of. Think Goodwill. Clothes, skis, books, expired food, it's also where someone will find an AWESOME paper mache donkey head.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Adelie, the other penguin

Smaller than the Emperor these guys are so animated and expressive.

Except on this very normal stormy day there was an intense fight within the group. One of them actually pushed another into the water! Although interesting to observe this behavior and the intimation battle between them, it was upsetting to watch. Kind of like watching a fight amongst children in the playground.

The M/V American Tern

Simply known as Vessel. The term Vessel is used to describe not only the ship itself that brings cargo needed to sustain those who will remain for the winter months and ship out the waste from these summer months, but it is a term used to describe our environment during its entire stay here at McMurdo.

Things are different during "Vessel". For starters the US Navy sent down men and women as did the New Zealand Defense Force to offload the cargo. This not only adds to the population in considerable numbers but it also changes the dynamic of the population. The roads are busy with trucks creating not just traffic but dust, and a lot of it. The station also goes dry while Vessel is in port altering after dinner activities somewhat.

For me the ship is a grand visitor from the outside and is a wonderful reminder that there is an entire world out there, somewhere, far away from here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pegasus White Ice Runway and Skiway

What keeps us alive, bringing food, supplies, and support.

... and is a long way from town.

Named after the C-121 Constellation Pegasus that crashed, or rather had a "hard landing" in 1970.

It is buried, but not forgotten.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boondoggle to Tent Island

A boondoggle in the Antarctic vernacular is not a waste of time or money, nor a way to look busy, rather the term is used for morale trips. Most require some kind of manual labor, instead for mine I got to escort 4 scientists' in search of abandoned penguin colonies. Here we arrived on Tent Island, just a 15 minute helo ride over the Ross Sea Ice. We were dropped off and the helicopter would return 4 hours later to pick us up.

Steve scopes out possible sites down at the waters edge. We are actually a few miles up from the water here before making the careful trek down. Although overcast and gray it was the perfect day, somewhere below freezing and no wind.

Rewarded with amazing views I watched the wildlife traffic in and out of the water. Whales criss crossed each other in pods and the penguins, always so playful skimming over the water and on and off again the ice..

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Onboard the Paul Buck

A few friends and I scored big and was invited by a crew member for a personal tour of the tanker. Built in 1985 it is the namesake of Paul Buck, the captain of the Stephen Hopkins which heroically took down a German warship in WWII, but in the meantime he himself did not survive.

Color coded fuel lines traverse the tanker. Diesel. The smell brought me back to a place I haven't visited for many years. A place of fond memories with Nonno John who was a mechanic on the tug boats that commanded the NYC harbour. I was a young girl again. A young girl sitting on the stoop with her Grandfather.

The heart of the ship extends down 3 levels. The engines at work were deafening and simply amazing. The maze of stairs and narrow walkways not only took us further into the core of the ship but it also took me to Nonno John. All brought on by the lovely smell of diesel.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Short People of Antarctica unite and I am a card holding member, well, actually all I have is this sticker, but that should do.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

U.S. Naval fuel tanker Paul Buck

The Paul Buck arrives with The Oden, the Swedish ice breaker behind. What can I say, except I happen to be at the right place at the right time to watch this beauty pull in. The shuttle department was short drivers and I volunteered to drive some people in from the pier. It will take about 3 days to offload the fuel which will keep the station running throughout the winter.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sum Sum Summertime Rolls....

We're approaching the middle of the Austral Summer and the temperatures are climbing. The days are getting warmer and quite comfortable, at 34F/1C I've shed most layers and don't even wear "Big Red" all the time. Jane has been addicted to these days since the time her head was on fire almost 20 years ago, but that was nothing shocking, and I have developed the same addiction. However.... um, yeah.. the door is propped open because "they" are too warm! YIKES, I wouldn't go that far.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Survival Training AKA Happy Camper

Mandatory for those who will be out in the field, but for people like myself it is an opportunity to get out, have fun and learn something in the meantime. However, it is a lot of work, and even in the best weather conditions it is a challenge like no other.

We planted ourselves onto the Ross Ice Shelf by lunch in a dense ice fog, but luckily by the end of the day it cleared. Carrying, or really dragging our equipment to the campsite that we will create from the packed snow and ice isn't as easy as it may seem. Lucky we were, and had great weather, 21F/-6C but when the wind kicked in at midnight it was as low as 7F/-13C.

Chris and I dug about 3 feet into the ice creating a kitchen. A task that we were both very proud of and actually spent most of our down time in that ditch. Me hoovering over the pot constantly adding snow to melt for hot water, and the 2 of us drinking lots of coffee, hot chocolate, and all the delicious beverages that get added to them. No wonder, along with Trevor we were up into the early morning hours as the rest of the group slept off their hard work.

We constructed a wall of snow blocks cut with a saw to block camp from the wind, set up the tents, dug up the kitchen, boiled reserves of water from the snow, so now it was time for me to make my bed.

Yep, that's where I'll be sleeping tonight! Just 85 feet below me are the frigid waters of the Southern or Antarctic Ocean. Not finished, I would cover the top with a sled, giant snow blocks and smaller ones to fill in the gaps. And for the record, quite comfortable. Brings on a whole new meaning to camping.

The Pezquin and I are tucked in and ready to sleep, him into the wall, and me into my sleeping bag. I had more layers of Merino wool on me than a random shop in Soho, I was probably wearing an entire flock of sheep head to toe.

The night was filled with mini naps due to vivid dreams so intense that they shook me from my sleep over and over again. Each so different, as different as each of my most memorable experiences in this lifetime. Now I have one more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cargo Handler for a Day

There are many ways to spend your days off. I was getting restless Wednesday and thought that it would be a good idea to work the afternoon as a cargo handler. We drove out to the airfield to meet the C-17 arriving from Christchurch, NZ. This is a big deal, as we get only 3 flights a week from the outside world, and with it comes needed cargo, like fresh food.

The cargo Delta truck. A cumbersome and loud vehicle. The tires are almost as tall as me, well, I guess that doesn't say much. So in order to tie down the cargo pallets I had to climb the tires and tighten with strength I didn't know I had. Nor did my forearms because they were sore for the following 2 days.

and now the best part, the hour plus drive back to town. Even in the best road conditions it is pretty bumpy ride on the Ross Ice Shelf. Good thing the roof inside is cushioned!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Oden arrives!

The Oden, the Swedish ice breaker treks down here every year making it possible for a supply vessel to reach us in February. Ahead of schedule she carries herself across the Ross Ice Shelf cutting up the ice over and over. It is the most graceful image my eyes have seen in a long long time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Black Ice vs. Mt. Terror.. it's RUGBY!

New Zealand, the World Champions, both here on The Ice, and literally the world challenge McMurdo Station USA. The teams out on the pitch (field) as the National anthem plays.

In traditional Maori style the Black Ice perform a version of Haka in an attempt to intimidate our team before the match.

The Kiwis press forward into our Try Zone with a fierce kick as our team gets ready to catch the ball and run it out!

That's castle rock in the back.

The teams huddle together forming a scrum. Kind of like the line of scrimmage in football (American) when restarting a play. 8 players from each team interlock and those in the center use their feet to control and move the ball to their advantage.

Apparently though, the World Champs are not only undefeated in Antarctica, but have never let the ball pass their hands to allow a score. And this year was no different. We lost. Again. 28 - 0. But kudos to our team, Mt. Terror keeping the game scoreless until minutes before the first half ending.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

and Another day gone

Our summer days have been held captive by the wicked winds. He is the beast within each and every one of us as he clouds our view to the outside world.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

All in a days work

ummm. yeah. some days just don't go as smoothly as others.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Behind the facade

The Castle Rock loop is a 9 mile hike that takes you to a plateau up across a mountain range and down along the sea ice. This is one of 2 authorized trails that you must travel in a group and with a radio due to its remoteness and Antarctica's unpredictable weather. Like all trails, vehicle or pedestrian you must follow the line of flags in order to find your way.

Although it is warm outside, the wind makes its appearance and becomes so forceful that even the sun hides from its wrath. The apple, an emergency rest stop with supplies becomes a changing room for us to layer up.

Soon there is nothing to see except my own feet pressing forward as my head is tilted down to ease the force of the wind. White out.

Many elements in life may not always be what it seems. A warm summer day, or freshly picked fruit may not be as appealing and tasty once you take in its warmth or bite. And so when you are fooled by nature's charm go ahead and make snow angels.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcoming the New Year

I have celebrated New Years on 4 continents some outside, others indoors, on land, and on water but 2010 will be one for the books. Ice Stock, an outdoor all day event of music, chili, H1N1 flu vaccinations, face painting, and booze. But what makes this event unique is the champagne in a can with its own sippy straw attached.

There were also hula hoops...

we played a game of frisbee in between sets...

and there were even robots.

At 35F/2C it was one of the warmest days yet, and we couldn't of asked for a lovelier day.

Let life surround us with life itself. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Waiting for Christmas dinner

Paper mache. I ask myself, "Why haven't I created animal heads to wear to Christmas dinner in years' past?" Better late than never I suppose. Here I am waiting for the guys before going to dinner in the galley. Sigh, never keep a lady waiting.

After dinner I went to our department party for a few hours, and ended the night at MAAG (McMurdo Alternative Art Gallery). The carp shop was transformed into a psychedelic art groove displaying work from some of McMurdo's finest artists. It seemed appropriate that I wear my own paper mache creation, and in fact wore it all night long proving that I can still dance as good as the rest of them without being able to see a bloody thing!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Sitting down to enjoy the best Christmas morning breakfast. Panettone sent from Mamma, and coffee from Daniel. Thanks so much guys for making this Christmas feel like home.

After the morning mass I introduce Mini Mia, last year's pez companion to this year's. Everyone... meet The Pezquin.

The Holiday Party

They cut no corners and went all out for the Holiday Party. Living rooms were set up with fake fireplaces and Christmas trees. Even Santa made an appearance.

Carolers sang, and there was food and drinks for everyone, but who can resist having their head in the butt of a reindeer.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories on Christmas Eve

In the cargo loading area there is a soft and fuzzy fish that can no longer sing. This is for 2 of my favorite people in the WORLD, Amelia and Annelise. For all of the silly afternoons in Annelise's room singing the 2 songs on rotation over and over again. I had a favorite song which escapes me now, and that is probably a good thing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Pressure Ridges

A pressure ridge is formed when an ice sheet breaks and layers itself over the other half. The top half is further pushed up and outwards by winds and ocean currents.

They stretch out along the Ross Ice Shelf for 2 miles. 2 miles of bliss.

However, water pools are forming as warmer temperatures approach making for a messy hike at times.

My favorite hike to date.