Season 2: Back to the Ice
How to read this blog- this story is written for a wide audience. I didn’t want to clog the content with definitions, so I’ve added a glossary that explains Antarctic details along the way. Hover over any vocabulary links in my posts to read the definition without having to actually look through the Glossary page.
Nov. 23, 2012 (*I can’t always post on the correct date for an entry, so I’ll list the correct date for each article here, rather than the timestamp of the blog.)
After three days of travel and 27 hours in planes (from Denver to San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand to Christchurch New Zealand to McMurdo, Antarctica) I climb down the stairs of the US Air Force C-17 plane and step onto the McMurdo Ice Runway. It’s nice to stretch and walk around after so many flights in the past few days. The sky is incredibly bright, made much stronger in its reflection off the ice, so I grab for my sunglasses, which I will remain on my head semi-permanently for the next three months. I look back towards the others getting off the plane and some of them are scrunching their noses in awkward surprise, because the extremely low temperatures cause the wet insides of your nose to freeze in the cold. In fact, people who have never been to Antarctica before are sometimes called ‘Bunnies’ because of the way they scrunch their noses for the first few days after they arrive, trying to adjust to this new sensation. I’m not a Bunny since I’ve been to Antarctica before and am used to the ‘frozen nose’ sensation, and the only feeling I really notice when I walk across the frozen ocean surface where the planes land in McMurdo Sound is a rushing wave of excitement to be back on the frozen continent once again.
It’s November 2012, and I will be spending three months living in Antarctica, working on the High Plateau on top of the Antarctic ice sheet, and doing research for my PhD. The vast majority of people who live and work in Antarctica are only here during the austral summer season (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which is November- February each year), so working during this timeframe is called working “a season” in Antarctica. This will be my second season on the Ice, our common nickname for Antarctica. I spent my first season working on an icebreaker that traveled from South America around part of Antarctica through the frozen sea ice, and this season I’ll spend most of my time at the French/Italian Concordia base on the High Plateau, far inland from most stations. This year I’ll be studying the fluctuation of gases between the snowpack and the atmosphere, and looking at how sunlight affects how snow ‘breathes’ as it exchanges different gases with the air above it. It’ll take me a while to get to Concordia (I need to hop between a few other stations first, and here at McMurdo I’ll complete ‘snow survival school’ to prepare me for life in the field). In the meantime I zip my jacket tightly, take a picture to show my friends I’ve made it here safely, pick up my duffel bags and climb onto the Terrabus, a special bus with large wheels able to drive out onto the ice sheet and frozen ocean. The Terrabus drives to McMurdo Station, the main American base, where I can finally get some sleep.
Inside the C-17 that flew from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Warm inside the Terrabus