Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I was lame and went to bed at 10:30pm on New Year's Eve. I went on a brief stroll yesterday around Hut Point Ridge to see if the sea had come in, and I was fairly tuckered out. The two beers that I had closed the deal on my energy level. Anyways, the New Year is here for me, and I believe this year and decade will be better than the last.

From Antarctica

Oh, while I was on the Hut Point Ridge trail, I ran into a couple of curious skua that followed me around the trail. I told them that I didn't have any food, but they wouldn't leave me alone. Maybe they were upset that I interrupted their conversation by Roll Cage Mary.

From Antarctica

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wet Snow

A weather system brought in a lot of wet snow that has persisted for the last few days. It is pretty neat, but I see the water pools forming under my desk again...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bucket List

I watched "The Bucket List" on one of the movie channels the other day. It was not as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn't exactly good. I don't really have a bucket list, as I think I just have a running list of things that I want to do. Does anyone know how a civillian with little to no money can fast-rope out of a helicopter?

I managed to sew a patch on to the hole in my jeans that recently developed. I was so proud that I didn't sew my pants-leg shut!

A popular past-time here is craft work with paracord (aka p cord). Some people are making survival belts and bracelets out of boredom. If you google survival bracelet, you'll probably find a bunch of sites.

Sorry about the stream-of-consciousness nature of this post. That said, I'm surprised it took me this long to get one of these out, considering the nature of blogs...


One thing that I am looking forward to about re-deployment is privacy. As soon as I make it to Hawaii, I think I am going to spend an entire day sleeping and lounging around alone. Woot!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starting the Last Leg

Christmas was good even though I missed my family and friends back home. Dinner was outstanding. Freshly mashed potatoes are always nice, but the duck breast and the asparagus in a balsamic vinegar reduction was what made the meal. Desserts, as always, were great. Despite the Christmas holiday, I believe the baker is still trying to kill me by way of overfeeding me things that I shouldn't be eating.

So many people are talking about redeployment (their exit strategy from the Ice). My tentative date of departure is February 8th, so it is not that far away. I'm still not sure how I want to spend my travel time. I'm thinking I'm going to try to live on the cheap while in New Zealand. The kiwi term for hiking is "tramping", and the trail system is pretty well-developed. I figure I should try to do at least one or more of the Great Walks. I really want to do the Whanganui Journey, which is a kayak trip on the North Island. However, I think that may be a bit on the expensive-side, so I might save it for another time. I think I need to start the paperwork for my Australian travel pass and also pay for my hut/tramp passes for New Zealand. I'm pretty excited about the prospects, but a little sad that my first season is ending so quickly. I have resolved to return to the Ice, but much of that depends on factors beyond my control.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve here, so today is our last working day before our two-day vacation. It's a big change from having a week or more off for the holidays, but it's not so bad. Tonight, we have a big Christmas party. I think it will be nice.

The weather is a little colder again; it's back to 25F. I'm still not reverting to my big red, though. Oh, "It's a Wonderful Life" shows tonight, so I'll need to make it a point to watch. For those of you in the cold and snow back at home, be safe! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No Humidity

From Antarctica

You probably can't tell from my bad photo, but it is so dry here that any moisture that ends up on the ground almost immediately evaporates and shows up as a mist rolling around town. I caught "A Charlie Brown Christmas" last night, but I am still wondering when "It's a Wonderful Life" will show.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Commercial Press

While stateside, I got a bit sick of the constant commercial press prior to the holidays. However, now that I have no Christmas music or the deluge of "holiday cheer", I find that I'm missing it. I guess as long as they air "It's a Wonderful Life" here, I'll be good.

White Christmas?

From Antarctica

We are getting an unusual amount of snow today. We might actually have a White Christmas this year at McMurdo. Happy Holidays, all! I hope this post finds everyone safe and happy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

From Antarctica

Christmas decorations are going up around town. It's not exactly a white Christmas in town, as most of the snow has melted around us. There is always the permanent ice shelf, which is like 100 feet thick, but that isn't quite snow... It's pretty dusty around here now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

cold in-ear plugs

Brrr! I won't miss putting in cold headphones into my ears to listen to music. I will miss getting access to a lot of really cool scientific instruments. I got a closer look at the protected satellite dish yesterday.

From Antarctica

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where'd It Go?

From Antarctica

A neat weather system brought some fog into Mactown today. I took a couple of quick snapshots. The fog is currently covering the newly installed wind turbines.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pegasus Runway

From Antarctica

I didn't actually make it to Pegasus last Sunday, but I did yesterday. I also rode Ivan up to the runway, which made for some slow going, but I was excited about the ride. The view out from Pegasus is pretty amazing, but my point and shoot and amature photography skills don't do the vista justice. I've got more pictures of vehicles and a Jamesway. WAIS Divide, Byrd Camp, and a bunch of field camps in the Dry Valleys have Jamesway tents. Hopefully, I'll be able to end up in a Scott tent, mountaineering tent, or a Jamesway this season, but I think I might have to be back in order to get in one for real (i.e. not in snow school).

Monday, December 7, 2009


Man, I never thought I would say this, but it is hot out! The currently observed weather is 39F with no wind/wind chill. I went to the Waste Barn to check things out there, and I kept getting over-heated whenever they closed the main door. The machines in Waste were neat to watch, and the people are really nice.

Oh, I forgot to mention how much McMurdo is into recycling. Everything that you throw away has to be sorted. You are responsible for separating all of your waste into different categories of recycled items. Then, it goes to the Waste Barn where it gets packaged for off-site disposal. I was loading cardboard into a baler, which takes loose cardboard and squashes it into cubes that are wrapped in wire the thickness of coat hanger wire. I think they are quite a deal heavier than bales of hay of equivalent size. Nick mentioned that we are allowed a margin of error of 2% in the containers that we send on, and we haven't ever gotten a container back due to going over. Neat stuff.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ice Runway No More!

From Antarctica

Ah, so sad. The ice runway is getting taken down now. I just got back from securing computers in the huts/shacks with the rest of the team. I think we are confirming functionality of all computers when they get things over to the Pegasus runway. That happens this Sunday, so I might be "coming in to work" on my day off. The ice runway drive is like ten minutes. The Pegasus runway drive is an hour and a half. Pegasus Field was named after a plane that crashed into the area; parts of it are still out by the runway.

Back to Work!

From Antarctica

I was a little busy at work yesterday, so I didn't get a chance to post about how Snow School (Happy Camper) went. I had a great time, and the instructors were great. They were very patient and knowledgeable. I think I learned a lot. It was my first experience camping in any cold environment. The basic principles are surprisingly similar to hot weather camping. Staying hydrated is important, and not getting injured is critical. Finding or making shelter is the next most important concern. Obviously, the snow trench and quinzy are for emergency uses. I regret that I didn't sleep outside; I slept in one of the mountaineering tents. The weather was extremely mild (~34F), so I should have. However, I kept overheating when digging, and I didn't want to be wet when I went to bed. I should have just shed layers and kept with it. Oh well...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snow School!

I just found out this morning that I'm going to snow school tomorrow. Two days out on the ice. They take us a couple of miles outside of town and teach us how to survive in case we get stuck outside for some reason. It will be neat.

Turkey Day

We observed Thanksgiving on Saturday. Meals had to be scheduled out, and I had mine at 3pm. I then volunteered in the galley to wash dishes for an hour, but I got so involved that it turned into two and a half. I guess I'm an obsessively goal-oriented person, so I really got into the progress of it all.

The galley crew went all out for Thanksgiving dinner, and they affirmed the fact that this season is probably the best dining season of the program's history. I think I heard that they prep'ed this meal for two days prior to delivery. Needless to say, it was outstanding. You could basically eat whatever you want, but I stuck to the beef tenderloin. The sides were great, the stuffing had sausage in it, and the grean beans had crimini or portabello mushrooms. As usual, the desserts were great. They had candied apples and a bunch a pretty cool parfait. I tried to keep things in check, so I didn't have any.

Having two days off was really nice, and I have my energy back. Christmas seems really close, and I suspect that the season will seem like it is over in no time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Worth the Wait

Wow, I am dragging today. I finally made it out to Cape Evans and the ice caves. The funny thing is that the Rec Directory suggested that I sign up as Last Name, First Name instead of First Name Last Name to try and trick Mother Nature. I guess that kind of crafty thinking is how you get the job done. Anyways, I have to say that the trip was definitely worth the wait. There was a lot of digging and backing up and going forward, but we ran into a curious pack of penguins. There are a bunch of videos and pictures of them in my Picasa album. I had to upgrade my Google storage in order to do that, but Google reduced the cost of 20GB to $5/year. I can deal with that.

Anyhoo, those penguins came up to about a foot from us. My camera doesn't seem to preserve the scale of things, so you can't really tell from the videos. There were originally a group of seven penguins that buzzed by us. They stopped for a moment and then deemed us uninteresting and started on. Two of the original seven broke ranks and came back to check us out. They even spoke to us for a bit.

The ice caves were also very interesting. Of course, at first, I dropped down into the cave and was not very impressed. Someone was standing in front of the opening, and my photochromic lenses were still clearing up from being outside. I couldn't see all that much. On my way out, I got some sunlight through my lenses, and I caught sight of some formations just above the cave entrance. They were rather fantastic. We were short on time in the caves, since we spent so much time hanging out with the penguins; so I didn't take any pictures in the caves. It was also 1:45am, so I was pretty beat.

Oh, I almost forgot about Scott's Hut. No undigestive biscuits there, either. A few nights ago, a historian gave a presentation on the race to the pole and some history of the area. Unfortunately, I missed it, but I lucked out. He was in the Delta with us and chatted along the ride. When we made it to the Hut, we saw the Kiwis that were staying out at Cape Evans (they tend Scott's Hut). They were flying a kite, which was a little surreal to me. It was kinda neat, though. The kite is not very easy to see, but you can see the orange and black ECW issue-gear of the Kiwis in the picture, at least.

We observe Turkey Day on Saturday, so I'll have two days off. I'm looking forward to that. I hope that it is a low-key kinda quiet weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Such a Tourist!

I was out at Helo Ops again for another service call, and I took some pictures. The mechanics and pilots were just shaking their heads at me, but hey, it's rare for me to get so close to a helicopter! It is neat how light they are. The mechanics were wheeling one in and out of the hangar with a small tractor and then by hand. When I left, I saw a C-17 taking off, so I took a little video of it. My camera definitely doesn't do this stuff justice. Also, things look a lot smaller in these photos than they do from my perspective.

Here are some quick shots of Helo Ops.

From Antarctica

From Antarctica

From Antarctica

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ob Hill, Try Two

With the improved Weather, I was able to make it up Ob Hill the day before yesterday. I'm not all that sore today because I had a pretty physical day yesterday. I went out to the ice runway yesterday, and I brought my camera! Unfortunately, Shuttles called us up and wanted their van back, so I didn't have any time to take pictures. I think they are already preparing the Pegasus runway to receive flights, so I don't think I have much more time. I'll have to find some excuse to make it out there again.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Blew In?

Overnight, the winds calmed, but the snow arrived. I'm trying to work out how I stop this sort of thing from happening:
From Antarctica

When I sink into a snow drift, the snow settles on the top of my shoes. Then, I track it into my office, and little pools form under my desk. It is pretty embarassing. I also can't stomp it off, and we don't have one of those shoe brushes outside our office. I can't Dorothy click them off or smack one foot with the other, either.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

30 knots, 50 gusting

Whoa! A pressure system rolled in today and caused some strong winds. 30 knots with 50 knot gusts is a very windy day, indeed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

USAP Photo Library

The USAP hosts up pictures at:

They will probably be much better than mine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Ok, I had some time to place captions on my pictures to help them make a little bit more sense. Also, I added some pictures of my workplace and living space for my family. They wanted to know what conditions were like, so I obliged. My room here is a little smaller than my master bedroom at home; however, four dudes live in it. If you know me at all, you know I like to sleep, so I'm pretty much unconscious when I am in there. Sorry for the mess, but I'm a dude. I lucked out, as my room-mates are pretty chill and easy to get along with. I guess it's not really much of a surprise, as most people here are good people and considerate to boot. Of course, if you are not, I'm sure you get voted off the island pretty quick. :)

Oh, I've also been pretty lucky, as my ceiling tiles are in pretty good shape. With the warm weather, many other people have had to make use of the drip cans. The roof of 155 (my dorm) has huge deposits of snow on it. As the weather warms up, there is quite a bit of water that accumulates up there, and it has to go somewhere.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back to Work!

I attended Trail Daze on Sunday to help groom the Hut Point Ridge trail. The wind was craaazy! I didn't really help all that much, but it was much fun. I went back out yesterday to take a tour of Shackleton's Hut with some friends. I also took some pictures while I was out there and also grabbed some of my workplace. They are available on my Picasa album:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Perfect Day!

Whoa! The weather is perfect today. If it doesn't turn before I get out of work, I'll be outside most of the evening and night. Visibility is unrestricted, so I can see for miles outside. The temperature and wind are also cooperating (+10F/-4F with wind chill).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How you doin?

Someone snapped this photo of me in my Big Red as we were climbing Observation Hill. It isn't all of my ECW; there are coveralls that go under it, which I'm not wearing in this picture.

From Antarctica

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

No new pics

Ah, no pics of Cape Evans, yet. The trip was cancelled, so I am hoping that this Sunday is a go. I'll post whatever I take, though.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pressure ridges

I walked over to Scott Base to try and fight off the weight gain from the inactivity and over-eating. It was a quick 1.75 miles, so not much of a workout. While I was there, I got a better look at the pressure ridges that form as a result of the ice starting to break up. Here is one of the photos that I uploaded to my albums:
From Antarctica

I should have gone down there with the guys I was walking with, but I really had to hit the men's room. I'll have to make another trip out there soon. I'm probably going to do it when I do the Armitage Loop hike.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's already Halloween day here, and there's a big party that everyone is excited about. Halloween isn't really my thing, so I'm not all that worked up about it. I am going to peek in for a bit, though. People have been hard at work on their costumes, so it should be interesting. I am excited about the possible trip to Cape Evans and the ice caves tomorrow, but there is a good chance that it will get cancelled due to vehicle problems. I'm crossing my fingers...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who wudda thunk it?

Ok, I still can't wrap my brain around this. This is in my dorm, and it gets used. An ice-maker in Antarctica? Really?

From Antarctica

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not crafty enough

I eat a bunch of meals with John, one of the utilities technicians. Anyways, he went to Delta training last night because he volunteered to lead some of the Cape Evans trips. I need to find my own way into some sort of vehicle training.

Oh, I had a service call to Helo Ops today. I was really excited to go to the helicopter hangar, but it was a bit of a letdown. It was cool, but all of the helicopters were out on runs when I showed up. Also, the hangar only keeps them warm and provides a place for repairs. I guess they are all in tip-top shape, so I wouldn't have seen anything anyways.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Yesterday, I walked around Observation Hill. I punked out and couldn't make it all the way up, and everyone else had to come back down. On the way down, we saw a seal out in the distance, so we made our way over to get some pictures. I only took a few:
From Antarctica

From Antarctica

From Antarctica

The rule of thumb is that, if the animal reacts to you, then you are too close. I don't have a fancy telephoto lens, so this is the best I could do.


There's a bridge in town called the troll bridge. Everyone referred to it as such, and I didn't know why. After a few days of passing over it, the weather was finally good enough to make me glimpse the reason. Here he is:
From Antarctica
From Antarctica
From Antarctica

For the boys!

I decided to walk around the station to take pictures of all of the vehicles for my nephews. This is what daily traffic looks like at Mac Town. I think my buddy, Carl, will get a kick out of this, too. I think he drove some of these around town.

This is Fleet Ops, where all of the big vehicles are kept:
From Antarctica

My office is upstairs in the food warehouse, so I get to squeeze my way around this bad boy every time I get into or out of my office. All vehicles are given a name, but I'm not sure who does the naming. Our friend here is Heckle, and I saw Jeckle running around the other day:
From Antarctica

I don't really need to worry about getting run over by these, but you see them flying around all the time:
From Antarctica

People on station call these pickles:
From Antarctica

This is a delta. It was parked between a bunch of other large vehicles, so I couldn't get a profile view of it. It carries about 20 people at a time:
From Antarctica

Of course, I had to take a picture of Ivan. You'll probably find pictures of him all over the Internet, but here he is again:
From Antarctica

I see these ATV's towing snowmobiles and skidoo's around town all the time. There is a light vehicle garage in town that services those, so these ATV's are used to get them to and from the icy places:
From Antarctica

This is not technically a vehicle, but these are hitched up and used to get cargo around:
From Antarctica

Your standard dump trucks and bull dozers. These don't really run through the middle of town, though:
From Antarctica

I don't know what is in this tank, so I'm not sure if this is a fuel tank or if it is for something else. Based on the color, I would guess it is fuel:
From Antarctica

A pisten-bully from the front and back:
From Antarctica
From Antarctica

Most trucks just have tires, but a few have tracks installed:
From Antarctica

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The demo crews were going to dig a hole with dynamite today, but that has been delayed. If I can get some pictures or video of that tomorrow, I'll post it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Condition 1

Whoa! The areas around McMurdo have hit condition 1 because visibility dropped below 100 feet. Condition 1 is defined as weather that meets any of the following criterion or combination of criteria:

  • wind speeds greater than 55 knots

  • wind chills colder than -100 degrees Fahrenheit

  • visibility less than 100 feet

I actually had to put on my goggles for the first time today so that stuff wouldn't get in my eyes.


Last Saturday night, I stayed up to watch one of the last sunsets of the season. I think the last one is about to happen soon. Here's a sample, but I have another in my album:

From Antarctica

Christchurch pictures

I have finally worked myself into a semi-slow point, so I've gotten a chance (and some bandwidth) to upload the photos I've taken so far. All of my photos can be found on my public picasa album:

Here is my room in the Hotel So in Christchurch. It was pretty nice, but it was very Japanese/European in size:

From Antarctica

Here is a sample photo of the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. I really like the place.

From Antarctica

I sat on this bench for about two hours:

From Antarctica

The World Peace Bell is pretty cool, but I really liked the inscribed cobblestones around it:

From Antarctica

Monday, October 19, 2009


Oh, the last post came about because the weather dipped to -29 degrees Fahrenheit with windchill, and I haven't even had to put everything on.

Paid off

I am pretty happy with the cold weather clothing that I have. The USAP issue gear is pretty warm, and the stuff I bought is working out pretty well. I'm particularly satisfied with the hiking boots that I bought:
They have been pretty warm, and the ankle-support has been very good.

I'm finally feeling like I know my way around, and the work week is helping me get into the swing of things. I have permanent nappy hair all the time, though. I might consider cutting my hair even shorter than it is.

Friday, October 16, 2009


We had a light snow this morning, which was nice. I had my first try at the Frosty Boy yesterday, and it was ridiculously good. The Frosty Boy is the soft-serve ice cream machine, which I'm not normally a fan of. I don't know why it made my day.

Apparently, people get really, really angry when the Frosty Boy is out of order. I think I saw a Frosty Boy T-shirt on station, so I'm hoping that I can find one in the station's store.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Settled in

My third full day of work, and I am doing fine. McMurdo is something else and and then not so unfamiliar at the same time. My body is still getting used to the sleep schedule and extreme weather, but I feel pretty good. I think all of my worries about the weather were foundless. My warm clothing is more than a match for the weather thus far. I expect things may get worse near the end of my stay, but this is definitely doable. Work is pretty much as I expected it. Living accomodations, meh... about what I expected. I can't say I am a fan of communal showering.

What was unexpected was the landscape. I can only describe it as awesome. It is difficult to wrap my brain around the magnitude and almost otherworldly nature of the environment here. I can't really explain it in this post, so I'll need to create a series of posts. Things are busy at work, so that may be some time. For now, I'm safe, here, and I'm feeling pretty good about my decision.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The weather outside is frightful

Argh! Weather caused important cargo to be delayed, so I got bumped off the flight tomorrow. It's not all bad, as it is effectively being paid to vacation in Christchurch. All the same, I'm ready to be there and start working.

Not well-travelled

After more than 20 hours in the air and about 10 waiting in airports, I'm finally in Christchurch now. Qantas airlines has some of the best in-flight food that I've had. I should go to the clothing distribution center in the morning, and I hope to be at Mcmurdo the day after. I showed up at my hotel today, and I couldn't figure out how to turn my room lights on. I felt like an idiot having to ask the front desk how to do that. It seems that my key card was necessary to unlock the switches...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Heading out

Three hours of safety training, and then I'll be on a plane for many hours. I think my hotel in Christchurch will have Internet, so I may have another post before Mcmurdo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dumb luck

Argh! One of my Microcenter brand SD memory cards failed on me last night. It was the one with all of my movies and eBooks. I only got about half of that stuff re-downloaded or converted before I left this morning. I guess I'll need to find some other way to entertain myself when I run out.

I'm in Dallas right now waiting on my connecting flight to Denver. When I got to IAH, they allowed me to jump on an earlier flight. With no cell phone, I realize that I need to wear a watch again. I haven't owned one of those in a long time!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Today was my last day at Rice. Twelve years are a substantial amount of history, but I've been fortunate in that they have been twelve of my happier if not happiest years. I've had a lot of fulfilling relationships there and will always have fond memories of working at Rice. I think I had more hugs than any person has a right to today, and it has definitely been hard for me emotionally these last weeks. I'm glad that my career at Rice has ended on a good note, and I look forward to starting with Raytheon the day after tomorrow. I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight, but I guess I can sleep on the planes tomorrow.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

T Minus Ten

Ten days until deployment! Anxiety is rising, as I think I have everything taken care of, but I keep finding things that I need to take care of before I leave. I'll be so happy when the 7th arrives. I picked up some photochromic lenses to take to Antarctica, and I tried them out yesterday. I'm not entirely sure they get dark enough, but they do claim that they block 100% of UVA and UVB sunlight. They are easily the nerdiest glasses I have ever worn, and I've been wearing glasses for 27 years... Oh, and I have to wear them with Croakies to make sure they stay on when I take my goggles on and off. They just add insult to injury.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can't explain it

I'd like to start my new blog off with heartfelt thanks. Thanks to my family and friends for always being there for me. Thanks to all of the IT staff that I've served with at Rice for their camaraderie. Thanks to my customers at Rice for their companionship and patience. I have a lot to be thankful for; and for that, I thank God.

I've had a hard time explaining why I am going to Antarctica. Most everyone has been positive and supportive, but I think they don't understand why I am going. I am not 100% sure I know why, but I can't actually provide any reasons or explanations that make sense to them. For me, it makes total sense, and I feel confident this is the right thing for me. It is risky on so many levels, but I feel that I must do this.

I'm going to be maintaining this blog to let people keep track of me. I like that no logins are required, and it is a simple means of spreading information.