October 21, 2004
Well, we've got most of our gear assembled now. This includes 10 crates of drilling equipment, two diesel generators, radios, three large tents (our kitchen tent has a floor plan of 8 feet by 21 feet), sleeping gear, cooking/kitchen utensils and appliances, several crates of sampling gear and sample bottles, glacier safety gear and many many boxes of food. Getting all of this material gathered in one place is a full time job for several days. We then weigh all items, because we will be flying on helicopters and the pilots need a good idea of the loads they are carrying. It's amazing how much stuff four people take with them to conduct climate research.
The people at McMurdo are incredibly helpful with this process, and it's hard for me to remember that they are working with several other research teams at the same time. They always manage to make it seems like they have all the time in the world to work with us and make our project a success. In fact, the town is getting pretty busy now, with roughly 900 people (including scientific teams and support staff) in residence. This number includes several teams who are waiting for the season's first flights to South Pole within the next week or so. We also are expecting to start our field season next week; we will probably be flying to our camps in the Dry Valleys on Wednesday.
In the meantime, there is still plenty to keep us busy here in town. Aside from wrapping up the details of our supplies, we also have had time to enjoy some of the more fun events that McMurdo provides. Last night, for example, a hookup was made to talk to the international space station from the science lab here. We were able to talk to the American astronaut there for about 20 minutes (until the space station's orbit carried them out of range for radio contact), and people drew lots to determine who got to ask questions. It bent my mind to be listening to someone in space from our nice warm buildings down here. I did not get to ask any questions, but I really enjoyed hearing the conversation. In addition, there are movies and activities, photo exhibits, talks and games as well. We've been busy enough that in truth, I haven't had time to take advantage of many of these opportunities.
We did take the chance to go up Observation Hill – or "Ob Hill" as it's known here – which is just to one side of town. The pictures don't do the view justice, because I took these on a cloudy day, but when it's clear, it is very beautiful. In the picture at the top (with the cross, a monument erected to Scott's party), you can just make out Mt. Erebus coming out in the background. The person going down the trail in the next photo is Karl. On Sunday, we hope to ski the Castle Rock trail, a long loop out of McMurdo. We'll see if the weather holds up. When we do, I'll send more pictures. Until next time,