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Date:   November 19th, 2006
Location:   McMurdo Station
Latitude:   77 degrees, 51 minutes South
Longitude:   166 degrees, 40 minutes East
Temperature:   −9°C (15°F)
Wind Speed:   8.6 knots
Wind Chill:   −16°C (4°F)
Elevation:   34 meters
Written by:   Dan D.

Another Sunday in Mactown

Sundays are pretty relaxed in McMurdo, brunch does not start until 10:00 and it lasts through to 13:00. The McMurdo chefs pull out all the stops, they offer many different types of breakfast food. For many people, Sunday brunch is the highlight of their week. Yesterday’s Taylor dome flights did not leave the ground, so we will now have to wait until Monday for the possibility of any progress. The word from Mac Weather is that a large storm system is moving in, let’s hope that it holds off for a few days.

To help pass the time today, I helped Steve conduct a couple of radar surveys around town. Steve has been asked by the powers–that–be to survey two plots of land close to town to see if they are suitable sites for situating more fuel storage tanks. The idea of building more tanks is to make McMurdo less dependent on annual supply ship visits. With a big enough store of fuel and food, McMurdo could be self-sufficient for two years or more.

These self-sufficiency plans are probably a direct result of the effects of iceberg B15. The giant iceberg, B15, made the McMurdo town planners realize how vulnerable the place can be, especially when relying on the whims of mother-nature. For those of you who don’t know about B15, it is the largest iceberg ever witnessed by humans, nearly 300km long and 40km wide. B15 calved off the Ross Ice Shelf in March of 2000 and floated west, eventually grounding itself close to the entrance of McMurdo Sound. Although the giant berg did not pose a threat to McMurdo Station itself, it did make its presence known by trapping-in the sea ice around the station that usually breaks up annually. The result was that the United States Antarctic Program was forced to spend millions of dollars each year since to pay for ice breakers. The ice breakers open up a wide channel through the sea ice so that the supply vessels can come in and deliver essential food and fuel to the station.

We conducted the surveys using a Ground Penetrating Radar to see if there was any buried ice under the proposed construction sites. Buried ice could cause major problems if it started to melt with a fuel tank on top! So far, Steve has not detected any ice, he did spot some buried debris though.

While Steve and I were conducting the GPR surveys, Gordon and Paul were working away in the Crary office and Dan B. was working hard to calibrate his density machine. The crew working out at Taylor Dome managed to assemble the three-inch drill and finish sampling a two–meter snow pit.