Free Willie!!!

How do you dig out a 40-foot diameter fence buried six feet deep in snow on an ice shelf? It sounds like the beginning of a (really) bad joke. This question vexed a number of people besides ourselves, including National Science Foundation (NSF) representatives, McMurdo station managers, Fleet Operations personnel and others. As the weeks started to slide by, I was somewhat increasingly concerned that I was going to get to know my shovel very, VERY well when we suddenly got an email saying that there was "a plan" to free the shield and instrument and this plan would begin the Sunday following Thanksgiving. But before this plan could take place, we needed to dig out all the wiring that was running between the shield and the datalogger. So, we began the arduous task of trenching down to the cabling to free it from the snow.

It took approximately 2 hours to dig the entire cable out. It was also somewhat surprising how quickly the snow had compacted and solidified over the short …

Above and Below McMurdo

One thing I got to mark off my Antarctic bucket list this year was a climb up Observation Hill (Ob Hill). Ob Hill rises about 750 feet above McMurdo and is the divider between McMurdo and Scott Base. It is also one of the many volcanoes that make up Ross Island. While this may seem small compared to Colorado standards, it's definitely one steep climb because the trail has very few switchbacks and essentially goes straight up.

You will notice the flat area almost halfway up on the right side. That is where the old nuclear power plant used to reside. As part of the Antarctic Treaty, nuclear material is not allowed in Antarctica so McMurdo was converted to run off of diesel generators and the nuclear power plant was decommissioned and removed. The Kiwi's have also installed three wind turbines that are shared between them and McMurdo, which also helps power the station now.

To give you an idea of where everything is, I've included an annotated version that points out some o…

A Turkey Trot, Pressure Ridges, and Icebergs!

Some of you may recall from last year that Thanksgiving is not celebrated on Thanksgiving day here in McMurdo, but is instead celebrated on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Work weeks here are 6 days long (Monday through Saturday) with Sunday as the one day of the week designated as a "weekend". While it may sound terrible, it's really not that bad and no one seems to mind working the extra day. To avoid interrupting the work week, major holidays are always celebrated on Saturdays so people can enjoy a 2-day weekend.

As part of the Thanksgiving holiday, there is always a 5k Turkey Trot race that begins at 10am Saturday morning. The Turkey Trot starts in McMurdo and goes about halfway to Scott Base (the New Zealand base on the other side of the hill) and back again. The Turkey Trot is always "something not to miss" and usually looks like Halloween crashed Thanksgiving's party. Many of the participants dress in some sort of costume to run the race and thi…