Sunday, October 12, 2014


"Well it's not as much of a dump as I expected" - Some guy behind me on the bus

Going to Palmer Station sends you down through Chile for a week-long ride on the LMG, but going to McMurdo sends you through Christchurch in New Zealand, where you stay until the weather clears enough to fly down.  For my group this took the better part of a week, as the station was socked in with weather that prevented the planes from being able to land.

But it gave us plenty of time get all of our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear issued and sorted.  Due to the massively colder climate of McMurdo, they issue you far heavier duty gear than for traveling to the peninsula, including the infamous "Bunny Boots".

Nearly a week after getting to Christchurch (Chc, or "Cheech), we were finally loaded into a C-17 for the five-hour flight down.

First class luxury!
It's a massive head trip; you don't get the week of LMG ride to slowly acclimate yourself to the odd ice world, you just get off the C-17 after being in a modern city six hours ago, and it's big and white and cold and what the hell am I doing here?

The plane lands on a runway of compacted snow a few miles south of station, on the sea ice.  It's incredibly thick and strong, but I've heard from people on station that a C-17 is so heavy that on warmer days, they can't leave them parked in one spot for more than a few hours or they can start to bow the ice under them.

No time to waste, off to get into Ivan the Terra Bus for the 45-minute ride to station.

Ross Island with McMurdo station on the southern tip, way off in the distance

So here I am, oddly at the station that I initially dreamed about back in 2006 when I first started applying for the USAP.  But then Palmer happened, which was a strange and wonderful turn that was amazing. But now I'm here at McMurdo, the big city, doing a big-boy job (for big-boy money).  It's big and it's cold; there's ~600 people here now and at peak, we'll probably have around 900.  And while nighttime is long gone (it's light 24 hours and will be until March), the cold is still here in force and ambient air tempertures are barely poking above 0F, wind chills are deep into the -20s. 

Which is exactly what we all signed up for. :)


Fabrizio said...

Only yesterday I read about Sara Wheeler's arrival at Mc Murdo on a C130 and today I can see it through your pictures! Thanks a lot and enjoy your time on the ice.

Anonymous said...

"what the hell am I doing here?"
The truest statement leading to an awesome experience or a we're all going to die.

Have a great time (and I hope it's the first one)