Saturday, February 28, 2009


We're having a warm, snowy day here, which is really unusual. This is by far the driest continent on earth, and we just don't get a whole lot of snowfall. Right now it's +12F and snowing pretty hard. We almost never get weather like this. It's a nice change. This picture is taken from my dorm roo, looking out over the VXE-6 transition. On a clear day, you would see Mt Lister and the Royal Society range of the Transantarctic mountains in the background.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pengies and Radio Darts

Day 19 on ice.

The pengies came back for one last visit. I heard through the grapevine that there were a couple of them in town, so I headed out to check it out. Pengies are no big deal at all in the summer-- they're very common. Around this time every year, they go somewhere else, and I never even saw one here last season.

One was with another one, just hanging around in the middle of the road. They are very tolerant of people, since they don't have any land predators. The rule of thumb is that you aren't supposed to get so close to them that they react to your presence. These guys would have bumped into me if I hadn't moved away.

Except for the last two days, the weather was pretty nasty for the last ten days. The bitter east winds were unrelenting for about a week. It was around 1F, so it wasn't that cold out, but the wind chills were getting down around -40F. Thursday it was zero F out there, but it felt like t-shirt weather because the wind died down. It's pretty constantly windy and nasty here, so it's great when the wind lets up a bit.

I'm settling into my work rhythm now. I know it's going to be a long, cold winter, so I'm hunkering down for a long stay here. It's still daylight about 24/7 now, though the sun is technically setting in the middle of the night. The path of the sun here is so different here from what we're used to in the states, that it's hard to describe. The sun will rise for the last time sometime in May, so there's still some daylight left.
Yesterday was the first weekly Radio Darts game. We went over to Scott Base and played darts with the Kiwis. The idea is to get South Pole on the HF radio, and play them too, but their radio wasn't working. I love radio darts-- it's some of the most fun I have down here, though I'm a mediocre dart player. The fun is giving each other grief for style, bad shots, etc.

Tomorrow is Sunday-- my one day off. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Monunday (Day 7 on Ice)

It's been a week now, back on the ice. Seems like I never left. I'm even in my old habit of climbing the stairs in the Crary lab. (See the article on page 7 of:

The Crary lab is a sprawling science building that is more or less on my way to work. There are three phases (buildings, really), connected by a long hallway. The lowest point is the aquarium in phase three, and the highest point is the library, upstairs in phase one.

In the constant war against getting fat down here, I've taken up the "Crairmaster". On the way to work in the morning, I do three or four laps of Crary, from the aquarium to the library. Sixty-nine steps in all. Last winter I did over 1400 laps in my last three months here. I figured out that was over 50,000 of elevation. It's a lot handier than going to the gym--I just do a couple of laps on my way to work, a couple on the way up to lunch, a couple coming back from lunch, and a few on my way home from work. I've been doing 12-15 laps a day lately.

With the all-you-can-eat-American-comfort-food diet here, I need all the help I can get. It also helps that I quit eating meat three months ago. I'm doing an eggs/dairy/veggie/fish diet, which is working out great, and removes a lot of the temptations at the galley here.

So why happy Monunday? There is a 20-hour difference between McMurdo and US Mountain time. Right now it's 8AM Monday morning, which makes it noon Sunday in Colorado. Monday here, Sunday there, hence Monunday. The days of the week are Sunturday, Monunday, Tuesonday, Wedsnuesday, Thursnesday, Friursday, and Satriday. So now it's Monunday mornternoon. (Yes, it is possible that I have too much time on my hands...)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Home Sweet Home (Day 2 on ice)

I got up early yesterday, and schlepped all of my stuff down to the Christchurch airport. We got on the C-17 transport plane about 9:30, and took off about 10:30-- they were having a hard time getting the plane started, I guess.

C-17s are great to fly in, especially when they add rows of forward-facing passenger seats, as our plane had. There were only about 40 of us on the plane, so we all had tons of room.

We landed at Pegasus runway at about 3:30. It's eerie to land in a plane with no windows. You never quite know when to expect the "bump". The flight was uneventful, as was the ride to town.

It's weird to be back. I was only gone for 115 days-- in some ways it feels like I never left. That's not exactly a happy thought in such a harsh place, but it is good to see a lot of friends from last year.

There is a little bit of a superior feeling being a winterover. We feel like we are coming back to real Antarctic experience, and the summer weenies are leaving. "It'll be cold and dark! We're outta here!" they squeal as they run for the exits.

My job will probably be quite a bit more boring than it was last year. In winter '08, we had what they called "extended season". An extra flight came in in April, so some special science could be conducted after the normal station closing time of late February. I got out in a helo to take down a repeater, and there was quite a bit of activity in those last couple of months.

This time I'm coming down earlier (early February as opposed to late February), and there's not much going on. The repeaters have all been brought back, and the helos are already winterized. Time to settle down for a very low-key winter, I supposed, and just be very grateful that I have a job.
(Photo was taken by Peter Lund early last year. No, I hadn't gained 100 pounds since you friends had last seen me-- I was just wearing a LOT of clothes. It was nippy.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ice Bound!

Well, I gave a whole bunch of folks a chance to give me a job in the real world, and none of them stepped up.

I applied for 76 jobs in the last four months, and probably had twenty interviews. Got as far as the second interview on four jobs, but no go.

The offer has stood all along to return to the ice for the austral '09 season, so here I am.

I'm at the So Hotel in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand. It's about 60F outside, and a little overcast. Yesterday was more like 70F and sunny. Gorgeous. It's the equivalent of the eighth of July here in the southern hemisphere-- a very nice time of the year here. I'm trying to think of the equivalent of Christchurch weather in the states. Sacramento, maybe. Definitely warmer and less foggy than San Francisco, but the South Island definitely reminds me of Northern California.

I'm just loading up on great meals before heading back to cafeteria land. Argh. There are a lot of great restaurants here, and a lot of the local raw materials are amazing. You have never had an egg until you've experienced a New Zealand egg. All the dairy stuff is amazing. Happy cows, I guess.

I'll be keeping this blog up over the winter, and I'll try to keep it full of good pictures. I'm also on Facebook now (Lee Gwin) if anyone wants to add me to their friends.



*Thanks and good bye in Kiwi speak.