9 January 2010
I’ve spent one day and zero nights here at the bottom of the World now. Before bed last night I walked to building 155 to get midnight rations in the cafeteria. The sun was shining high above the dirt main street that is McMurdo Station.
Midnight rats, as they call it, was delicious. The NSF has kindly given me a distinguished visitor pass so I can eat right at midnight instead of waiting until 12:30 when all of those who are not working an overnight shift can eat. The food is free and plentiful. The cold and hard work means you have a very high metabolism. 4,000 calorie per day diets are the norm for many and at the pole, where it’s MUCH colder and higher, a 6,000 calorie a day diet is common.
Today was survival school. It lasted all day. It’s mandatory for anyone going to the inland sites away from the bases at McMurdo or South Pole. Since we are going to the Western Antarctic Ice Shelf drill site, and the Dry Valleys, our group of 8 were required to do the course.
Brian Johnson of the McMurdo staff was our instructor and he was a fountain of fabulous information. I learned info that may save my life someday, although I hope I never need it.
Afterwards we drove in the snow bus for an hour to a spot on Ross Island called “room with a view”. I’m not even close to being a good enough writer to describe it- but I took pics!
Let’s just say that I have never seen anything like it, and unless you have been here- you haven’t either!
Everyone here works very hard. Support staff outnumber scientists and researchers by five to one. It takes a lot to survive here. The living quarters are very spartan. I have a tiny bed and a tiny desk. No light in the room. (It’s light all the time so not really needed.) My room mate is one of the survival school instructors.
The main thing you do is sweat.
Really! I kid you not.
See, you have to keep your ECW (Extreme Weather Clothing) gear nearby when going away from the base. Depending on the weather, you usually get hot and sweaty walking in the heavy bunny boots. The ECW kit is very good. You do stay warm, but it takes awhile to get the right amount of layers. When you exert yourself, the needed layers change!
Warnings are posted everywhere about not getting dehydrated. EVERYWHERE.
You can think of McMurdo as a kind of busy mining town surrounded by nothing. I mean nothing. Empty and quiet and very bright white. Intensely beautiful. Amazingly beautiful and vast.
More than any picture can convey.
There are Penguins and Leopard Seals and Skuas (The scavenger bird of Antarctica) The wildlife have no fear of humans at all, but disturbing them in anyway is strictly prohibited. The Antarctic Treaty is followed to the letter and spirit, with the the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. If it can be recycled it is. Trash that has to be burned is shipped to Port Hueneme California and incinerated. 65% of waste at McMurdo is recycled.
This is the greenest town on Earth bar none. McMurdo sets a fabulous example for the rest of the world.
I saved the biggest news for last!
Tomorrow is Sunday here ( I wrote this at 830pm Saturday night here in Mac Town.) At 2pm Sunday out on the Mcmurdo Ice Shelf is the annual New Zealand (Scott Base) vs USA (McMurdo Base) Rugby game. They play in the snow on frozen ocean. Wearing bunny boots!
In case you do not know, Rugby is wildly popular among the Kiwis and they play it very well. The American team has NEVER won. Actually the McMurdo team has never scored a point!
So tomorrow at 2pm I will cover my first sporting event! Pics and video to come!! (Trust me if you are wagering, bet on the Kiwis! (everyone here is!)
McMurdo Science Base, Antarctica
22:42 Saturday 9 January 2010