Ice Cores from the Dry Valleys of Antarctica
Karl Kreutz, Bruce Williamson, Erich Osterberg
October 18, 2003 to December 10, 2003
October 25, October 27, October 29, October 30, 31, Nov. 1, 2, November 27, 2003
In the field: Day 1-5, Day 6-10, Day 11-15, Day 16-21

Thursday October 23, 2003

click on a photo to see it full size
Sumner Beach, NZ Loading the C-17 Inside the plane getting settled for the flight Bundled up. Arriving on the ice

Erich writes:
So far everything has gone really well. On Saturday we began the long flight to New Zealand. We flew from Bangor to Boston, to Los Angeles, to Auckland, New Zealand to Christchurch, New Zealand. All together, there was about 20 hours of flying, but adding the lay-over at different airports, it was about 30 hours of traveling. Since we flew over the International Date Line, we lost a day (Sunday), and arrived in New Zealand on Monday morning.

We spent Monday and Tuesday in Christchurch looking around, doing errands, some shopping and some touristy stuff. We even made it to a beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean called Sumner Beach. I took a nice picture of it with the Southern Alps mountains in the background. On Tuesday morning, we received all of our cold weather clothes. The Antarctic program gives us all of the clothes we need, from long underwear, to wool hats and gloves, to huge red jackets that most people wear down in Antarctica because they are so warm.

Our flight to Antarctica was scheduled for Wednesday morning. We were supposed to meet at the Antarctic center in Christchurch at 5:15 am! The idea is that you spend 2-3 hours getting ready, going through paperwork and such, and then finally getting on a plane around 8 am. Anyway, everything depends on having good weather, and very rarely do you get to Antarctica on the first try. Often the flights "boomerang" and get halfway to Antarctica before they turn around. Last week they had 2 boomerangs in one day, and then couldn't fly anyone in for the next 4 days because the weather was so bad. We were supposed to get up at 4:30 in the morning (ugh!) but we got a knock at our door at 4 am and the hotel clerk told us that the flight was delayed 3 hours. So we were able to get up at a normal time and have breakfast before getting to the airport.

When we arrived at the airport we saw that as luck would have it, we got the new military plane, the C-17. There are 4 different kinds of military plan es that fly to Antarctica, the LC-130, the C-130, the C-141 and the C-17. They are all huge airplanes, but some have propellers and some have jet engines, so it takes anywhere from 4 1/2 – 8 hours to fly depending on what kind of plane you get. Our C-17 had huge jet engines, so it was a 4 1/2 hour flight to Antarctica instead of 8 hours. PLUS, the C-17 has lots more room than the other planes, and a normal bathroom. On some of the other planes you have to pee in a funnel, and they fill the plane with so many people and equipment that you're stacked in facing someone else with your knees touching each other. But our plane had plenty of room to relax even with tons of heavy equipment, so it was the best possible way to get to
Antarctica. And we made it down on our first try! That rarely happens.

The plane landed on the sea ice next to McMurdo Station, and they drove us to McMurdo town (Mac Town) in busses with huge wheels that look like something from Star Wars.

McMurdo Station is not what I expected, although I'm not really sure what I expected. It really is a town. About 1100 people total. It looks like a mining town in the middle of the ice - kind of bizzare. They have all the comforts of home here, including gyms where you can play sports, a few bars, stores, and even a 2-lane bowling alley (open only on Sundays, though). We have TV lounges, internet access and newspapers. It really is amazing that all of this exists on Antarctica.

The cafeteria is nice, with good food and ice cream every day. I never thought I would be having ice cream in the coldest place on Earth! All four of us, (Karl, Mike, Bruce and I) are living in the same room - living arrangements are college dorm-style with common bathrooms, although luckily there are no longer restrictions on the number of hot showers you can take.

The weather has been pretty good so far. It’s been snowing off and on, and the sun comes out a lot, although it doesn’t seem to make it much warmer! The temperature has been between -10 and 5 F, and that’s without the wind chill. Remember that this is the summer. In the winter it gets down to -40 F all the time. The sun doesn’t set during the summer in Antarctica, so it’s bright out all the time. Luckily our room doesn’t have any windows, otherwise it might be difficult to fall sleep at night.

Today we spent almost the whole day looking through all of the equipment that we are going to take into the field with us for a month. We have to be completely self-sufficient when we are in the field, so we need to bring everything and know that it will work perfectly, otherwise it could be really difficult for us. So we had to look through everything from sleeping bags, to skis, to tents, to sleds, to bathroom barrels. Yes, we have to go to the bathroom in barrels because you’re not allowed to leave anything behind – you must keep Antarctica pristine.

Tomorrow we leave first thing in the morning for our snow survival course. We’ll spend two days out on the glacier getting refresher courses on our mountaineering skills, like low to build an igloo or snow cave, how to stop yourself from sliding down the mountain if you fall, and how to prevent getting hypothermia and frostbite. We’ll spend tomorrow night in an igloo that we’ll make, and then be home the next day.

Our first helicopter flights to check out our camping sites in the Dry Valleys region is scheduled for next Wednesday. We should have two of these reconnaissance flights, and based on what we see from the helicopters we’ll determine where we want to go to do our science work. We’ll have to dig snow pits, drill shallow ice cores and survey the whole region with radar to see what the snow layers look like below the surface of the glacier. As I mentioned, we’ll be out there for a month, so we want to make sure we choose the best locations.

That’s about it for now. I’ll write more when we return from our snow survival course.

the glacier. As I mentioned, we’ll be out there for a month, so we want to make sure we choose the best locations.

That’s about it for now. I’ll write more when we return from our snow survival course.