Friday, December 4, 2009

Briefings, Briefings and More Briefings

Thursday, our first full day in McMurdo is devoted mostly to briefings. After a cafeteria breakfast, we started in Cracy lab (the main science building) at 8 am, with "Crary Lab Safety", followed at 8:15 by "Environmental Field Brief." We aren't going to the dry valleys, and had already taken the online course on "Protecting Antarctica's Environment." so get out a bit early.

At 9:30, the "Science" (really logistics) briefings began in the "Chalet," the house-sized NSF office building. About 9 people took turns telling us what they did, and why we need to talk to them later. Fortunately, our briefing books list these meetings in more detail:

meet with our "On Ice POC (Point of Contact)
meet with the Crary Lab materials supervisor,
get our laptops set up to use the wireless,
go to a communications briefing
check out radios
meet with the Crary lab management about space
Check out the equipment that is being provided to us
Prepare for "Food Pull" where we will select the food we want to bring
Get trained on our generators and chainsaw
Pick up our generators and chainsaw
Meet with the Helicopter Operations Supervisor about planning our flight and packing our cargo.
Get briefed on waste management

These meetings follow a similar pattern. We are asked "What do you need?" Often, we don't know enough to intelligently answer that question. Fortunately, almost everybody that we talk to does have very good answers, all we have to do is agree with their usually excellent choices.

These meetings also highlight the vital role that planning and logistics play in Antarctic science. In the field, there is no corner store to buy a soldering iron or generator (or even a bottle of juice).

In between the meetings, we look at our gear, unpack the electronics box, and begin testing things. Everything seems to work; the only hiccup is that some network settings for the Iridium satellite modem need changing in the new environment. Also, one antenna needs some glue to repair some transit damage.

The picture shows Bldg. 155, where Thorsten and I are staying. It also houses the cafeteria, store, automatic teller machines (the only ones in Antarctica) and houses some adminstrative functions. Note the finely landscaped boulevard.

Tomorrow: snow school.

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