Sunday, February 24, 2008


I am off the ice and have been for a couple weeks. New Zealand has been great and I have one more week of that before heading to Costa Rica for a couple weeks then back to the states. That is all for now, too much other stuff to do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

And the winner is...........

This past weekend was the McMurdo Marathon, 26.2 miles by either ski or on foot. Coming down here it had been a goal to give it a shot so for the past few months I had been running to kind of get myself in shape. I had a good idea of when the marathon was going to be so about a month ago I did my long training run which turned out to be 16 miles. Right after new years I left town and went out to a field camp where I didn't do any running for two weeks and I just returned three days before the big race. The photo below is of the start, there are maybe 20 of us doing the whole marathon on foot.
The day turned out to be perfect, 39F with no wind and pretty good running conditions on the snow road. It was a little sunny but I can't really complain. Here is a photo of me with my friend Richard and my roommate Danny who both kind of trained for it. The route was 13 miles out and 13 miles back all on snow most of which was packed down pretty hard from vehicles. There were things to see but no change in elevation which probably saved me.

To make what could be a long story short, I ended up winning the race with a time of 3:26:18. This being my fourth marathon it felt better than the previous three. I stayed better hydrated and ate more than I ever have. There were only four aid stations on the race but I brought a couple of candy bars and ate those. There was a guy from South Pole, who won their big race and got a vacation to McMurdo to run the marathon, ahead of me until the 17 mile mark, or somewhere around there because there were no mile markers, but then he faded and I think I actually maintained a pretty even pace throughout the race. Maybe all those years of carrying a heavy backpack have toughen me up a little. Anyway, for winning I got a gift certificate for a massage in Christchurch when I get back there. Speaking of which I am done down here on 1 Feb so don't send anything as I won't get it in time. It is just around the corner. Yeaaah!!!
Me at the finish.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Sorry for not writing recently but I have been out of town for a little bit in the middle of nowhere called WAIS Divide. From McMurdo if you travel south east you would end up in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is essentially the western side of the Transantarctic Mountains. I got flown out there on the 2nd of January and WAIS Divide was supposed to be the base camp for another project that was I was involved in on coast. WAIS Divide happens to the plateau of the the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet and from there ice either flows south out to the Ross Sea or west to the Amundsen Sea. The ice here is about two miles thick before you hit bedrock which is a mile below sea level. All this means is that WAIS Divide is a really good place to get an ice core which can be used to measure what what was happening in the environment at a certain time period. Those are the interesting parts of WAIS. It also happens to be one of the most depressing places on earth as all people do is work, although there is 24hr light it is usually cloudy, and there are no opportunities for recreation. So I can't say I really like WAIS all that much as I got stuck there in bad weather just waiting for a plane to come in for about a week, but it was a good place to stage from to do some other work.

The group I was assigned to wanted to work on the Pine Island Glacier, which is a glacier that's moving at a rate of 10 meters a day, pretty amazing for a glacier, and is melting very fast. Why the Pine Island Glacier(PIG) matters or is important to study is because all the theories predicting a rise in sea level around the world are based on Western Antarctica melting and getting water underneath it and the place where this would happen first is at PIG because it is changing faster than any other glacier in Antarctica. Truth be told the experts I was with said that there is a lot of modeling that has been done to make predictions and throw out ideas but that none of them are actually based on real facts. Hence the need to study this area. So shortly after arriving at WAIS we were able to fly out and do a reconnaissance of the PIG and these are some photos. To offer some scale the first photo is of some icebergs that broke off earlier this year and the big chunk in the middle is about three kilometers wide and 15 km long, it extends off the horizon. This was the view when we originally flew in, nobody had ever had a landed in this area and very few people have ever even flown over it.

Our goal was to land on the right side of the photo and set up a camp and then do a bunch of testing. The good thing is we were able to land. The bad thing is that we couldn't set up a camp, the area was to rough to take off with fully loaded planes without possibly destroying them. So instead we set up a camp on the left center side of the photo above. While we were at that camp we got a flight over the open ocean, down next to the icebergs in the photo above. It was probably the highlight of my season and kind of makes me want to be a pilot. Below are some photos

The big walls of ice are about 200ft high. We had walls like that on either side and were flying in what felt like slow motion. An amazing blue water and perspectives I have otherwise never had.

Below are some photos from and of camp. We installed a weather station that included the wind gauge and a bunch of other stuff. That is how I got the aerial perspective.

Here is one more photo of some crevasses we flew over on the way to placing a remote GPS site. This was all part of the same trip just a couple, this was just a day trip from WAIS before we got stuck there for a week. These crevasses are probably about 15-20ft across where they are open.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sea Ice Science

Recently I went out on the sea ice with a group of scientists to help them perform some tests on the breaking strength of sea ice. In this photo our camp is a small dot in the middle and we are about 400m from the edge of the sea ice. What the group does, is using a huge chainsaw (as seen below) cut out a block (not the one he is cutting there but the final product is the next photo) of ice 15ft by 30ft and isolate it so that it is floating free from the rest of the surrounding ice.
Then a small inflatable plate and a bunch of little monitors(I have no idea what other word to use) are put into the ice along with video cameras. The cutting, clearing of ice, and getting the machines hooked up can take somewhere are 4 to 7 hours depending on weather and if everything is working correctly. Eventually the small plate is inflated and the ice will break in two. That takes about 6 seconds at the most. As exciting as this sounds, it wasn't that exciting(I think I was hoping for an explosion and then two icebergs to float to the surface rolling over and over threatening to drown everyone in the wash) but according to the scientists the data they collected that day was the best of the season and my helping out was useful.

For me the real exciting part of the day was when the penguins showed up. From what appeared to be out of nowhere, we would be working and then these little guys(Adelie penguins) would show up just to check us out. As seen in the photo below, they were super curious and would get within just a few feet of you. Throughout the day about 20 of them camp into our camp, would check us out for a little while and then get bored and head off somewhere else.

The Adelie are super fun but eventually an Emperor penguin ended up waddling over. The Emperors are probably three times as big as the Adelies and probably about 80lbs. This one was by itself and seemed a little reluctant to come quite as close but still within about 15 ft. In all I probably watched penguins for about three hours of an 18 hour work day. The weather was beautiful, science was getting done, I helped out where I could, and was once again blown away by these amazing little animals in their natural habitat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


From south pole I took a couple three hour flights to two different automated geophysical observatory (AGO) sites. Yes the entire flight looked like the photo above except when the windows would frost over and you couldn't see anything. The AGOs are located at a minimum of 300 miles away from Pole on the Eastern Antarctica Plateau. I was located at 85 degrees south latitude and 45 degrees longitude at an elevation of about 6200ft for about a week. The photo below is of AGO2 but of the four that are functional, there used to be six but two have gotten buried by drifting snow, you probably couldn't tell any difference, they look the same. There is a small building that holds all the electronic gear and the a couple of wind generators to keep the place running in the winter when solar power doesn't work. We set up a couple of tents for the week but other otherwise that is about it. My job out there is to find old caches of food, gear, or fuel laying around out there from when the air force installed the facility and then dig it up. I also helped raise the hut up which was being buried by snow drifts. It took us two days to do it but as you can kind of see it is now several feet above the snow.
The last photo is of me at AGO3, located at about 10,000ft. To work at this site we had to just do a day trip because it is quite a pain in the butt for the small airplanes to fly that far away with a ton of gear. We made it a quick trip rather than no trip at all. As you can see this hut is a little lower then the other one. My job at this site was to dig things up while the scientists fixed the machines. As you can see by how pink my face is I have been outside all day getting sun burnt. The working temp was -35 so I just shoveled until I needed food or water and then would keep shoveling. At those temps I get very cold very quickly if I am not doing something. The good thing is that when I returned to McMurdo a few days later and it was 30F it felt like it was the middle of the summer.I really liked working at the AGO sites. There is nothing out there but I stayed busy helping the scientists and digging things up. It was by far the most remote I have ever been in my life and it felt like I was finally in Antarctica. When the plane flew away there was nothing as far as the eye could see, just a horizon line that is hard to tell what is land and what is sky. Pretty cool to think that the closest thing was a three hour flight away.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Well I conquered yet another remote corner of the world and I am heading to an even more remote one today. This is all I can do for now as I am in a super rush but Pole is a trip. Good people, good food and a place that feels like I am living in a spaceship. Here is a photo of me in the old dome that is buried and being dismantled and another photo of a small tunnel connecting two areas where all moisture just freezes.