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.