Monday, October 22, 2007


This is a more recent adventure I got to partake in which very few people down here have the ability to do. Because I am on the Search and Rescue team I was able to fly out to some remote field camps on a reconnaissance trip to have some terrain familiarity and also know where the resources are located if we ever need to actually do a rescue. I was fortunate to head to the Dry Valleys which are across McMurdo Sound on Antarctica. I can now say I have been to Antarctica and not just to a big island that is really far south. There is a fair amount of science that happens in the Valleys but I don't know what it is right now because none of those scientists have arrived yet. Right now it is just seal and penguin researchers and then folks studying the atmosphere. When I find out what happens in the dry valleys I will let everyone know. In the meantime I will just have to talk about how awesome my flight was. We were in the air for about 3 hours total and got to fly over the sea ice edge and see open water and then fly around in these enormous valleys that have a bunch of exposed rock, kind of unusual down here as most things are covered in ice, and then see the gigantic ice sheets that surround them. This place is beautiful when you get away from McMurdo, even on short walks or trips in a vehicle out on the sea ice, but especially really far away in a helicopter. It was another mind blowing experience and a place that I would hope to get out and actually walk around some day. The top left photo is of the Goldman Glacier that lives above Lake Hoare, in the Taylor Valley. It is probably a couple miles wide and like most glaciers down here is still advancing.
The middle photo is of a random mountain, that I don't know the name of, that sticks up in the middle of the of the Taylor Glacier. The Taylor Glacier is huge, bigger than anything I have been on in Alaska at least where this photo is taken, probably about 15 miles across. I just really liked band of rock that ran through the middle of the mountain which exists in the final photo as well but is just hidden under the ice. The last photo is of an icefall, which I don't have the name of, where ice from the the eastern continental ice shelf is funneled into and then pushed over that cliff into the Upper Wright Glacier. It is probably about 5 miles across at the bottom edge of the photo. In the left hand corner of this photo you can see a white could coming down off the upper glacier. The winds were very strong over there and this is a giant cloud of blowing snow. This whole area is a giant specially managed area that is off limits to almost everyone. When you go in there you have to carry out all your waste including pee and poop so as to not leave a trace. This is somewhat of a surprise since McMurdo is one giant trace from both the military days and even now during the National Science Foundation rein, although things are getting better from what I hear.


I am getting emails from friends that are saying they enjoy reading about my adventures so I guess I will continue to keep posting stories. This story actually took place over a month ago but I have been busy so I haven't written about it until now. One night at dinner I was talking with some friends about birthdays and I mentioned that I already had my birthday and everyone said I should just make up a day and have an"ice birthday". What happened was that they decided to have one for me. The party was billed as a "Showgirls" party where we were all going to sit around and watch the special 10 year anniversery edition of showgirls the movie, a terrible movie but really funny to laugh at. Little did I know but it was also my surprise birthday party. A bunch of people were invited but only one or two people there actually knew it wasn't my birthday. It was a giant surprise party for everyone, both me and all the guests that were just trying to celebrate my entry into the world. My three friends that made the whole thing up thought it was the best thing ever and all night long I played the role of the birthday boy. We ended up going to the bar and everybody bought me drinks. It was great. There was live music, dancing, and everyone had a fun night and not until the morning did they find out it wasn't my birthday. The photo here is probably the best photo to show a party down here. I am the dressed up pimp in the corner on the left. The photo has everything, young, old, hippies, blue-collar, hipsters, people dressed up. Everything.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wildlife siting

Antarctica has been great but one day this week was by far the highlight of my experience down here. I took a group out onto the sea ice to do some drilling and gain some practical experience and while we were out there we got to see some emperor penguins. To my knowledge it is the first ones that have been seen this year.

At first we were just driving along and noticed something moving in the distance and decided to get a little closer. I had seen some seals but they are kind of like big blobs just laying on the ice, interesting but kind of like looking at a lion in the zoo that is sleeping on a hot day. As we got closer we could see they were penguins making there journey to the ocean after a long winter out in the middle of nowhere. There were about ten of them waddling along sometimes sliding on their bellies in single file like a they were on a mission. We stopped our vehicle about a half a kilometer away and walked to get a little closer, stopping about 200m away from them. All of a sudden one in the back of the line noticed us and changed course to check us out. Soon enough they were all on their way. About ten feet away from us they stopped and bunched up, us looking at them and us checking them out. We were only able to sit there for about 20 minutes before we had to move on but those little guys absolutley blew my mind. They had zero fear of us and wanted see what we were doing out there.
Also of note this week I got to teach a happy camper school and we had temperatures of -55 with wind chill. It was pretty damn cold out there but our students were great, working together to set up camps and learn how cook and nobody got frostbite. A few students along with myself did get a little bit of frostnip but that is how it goes in these enviroments. It happens superquick at the extreme temperatures and if nobody is looking at you to tell you that your cheeks are white you don't notice. Pretty crazy.