The Long Trip South
Welcome to the 2006-2007 US ITASE log. This log will be a forum where we can update the public on the progress of the ITASE traverse, introduce the scientists and staff on the traverse, present a little science for those who want to follow along in a classroom, and hopefully be slightly entertaining, after all, 14 people in a small confined space with no showers completing tasks in a harsh environment is ideal reality TV material.
To start off I will introduce myself. My name is Lora Koenig and I am a PhD student at the University of Washington. I am a remote sensor studying how space–borne satellites monitor snow/firn properties over Ice Sheets. If my PhD doesn‘t work out, I hope this log can give me some material to submit to Oprah so I can be her On Ice Investigative Reporter. To stick with the investigative reporting theme, I will try and come up with some special reports about life on the ice throughout the next few months, so check back early and often.
Today I will focus this log on a quick introduction of the early put in crew and a brief step by step on how scientists get to Antarctica. Currently, 8 members of the US ITASE team are in Antarctica. In alphabetical order, excluding myself since we just met in the last paragraph, they are Dan Dixon, Joe Flaherty, Andrei Kurbatov, Cathy Leiser, Rick Schneider, Josh Swanson and Brian Welch.
Dan is a 3-time US ITASE veteran from the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine. He researches past Antarctic climate using ice core chemistry. Joe is an Antarctic newbie from the University of Washington interested in isotope chemistry and past climate. Andrei is a first time US ITASE participant but has been to Antarctica previously. Andrei is also from the University of Maine where he studies volcanic forcing of climate. Cathy is the new US ITASE cook and this will be her first Antarctic traverse. Rick and Josh are both expert mechanics and they are also US ITASE first timers. Brian is a 3-time US ITASE veteran from St. Olaf College. Brian uses deep ice penetrating radar to map bed topography and internal ice layers for flow modeling. That is the group so far. More people will arrive and be added in the next few weeks.
It takes a long time to get to Antarctica. I left Seattle, with Joe, at 2:42 pm on October 30, 2006 and arrived Christchurch, New Zealand at 10:00 am on November 1, 2006. I was sad to lose Halloween because of the International Date Line. Keep holidays in mind when making your travel plans to New Zealand. This portion of the travel was all done on commercial airplanes.
Several of the early put-in team met up in Christchurch where we spent 2 days adjusting to the time change and picking up our Extreme Cold Weather Gear (ECW) at the U.S. Antarctic Program?s Clothing Distribution Center. This gear is issued to keep us warm while in Antarctica. It includes down parkas, insulated snow bibs, large insulated boots, fleece jackets and pants, long underwear, hats, gloves, mittens, etc. We try on all the clothes to make sure they fit before packing them for the flight to McMurdo.
From Christchurch we took a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane to McMurdo station, arriving on November 3rd, 2006 at 2:40 pm. The C-17 is a very large aircraft with room for many passengers and tons of cargo. The C-17 flight to McMurdo takes approximately 5.5 hours. In McMurdo the plane uses its wheels to land on a sea ice runway. Once we fly out to the ice sheet interior, we will need a ski-equipped plane to land on the snow. After the plane touched down on the sea ice we were all loaded into Ivan the Terra Bus, a large all terrain bus with enormous wheels, for the short drive up the hill onto Ross Island and the center of McMurdo station.
McMurdo is much nicer than expected. The buildings are really nice and well done on the inside. I expected the place to be much rougher on the eyes. McMurdo has everything you need, a post office, a store with good stuff, video rental, gym, clubs, coffee shop and even an activities center. Oh, the food is good too, I feel like I am back in undergraduate school living in the dorms. I wish I had more time to participate in all the activities that take place around the station.