Thursday, December 24, 2009
I should probably say a little about McMurdo station, especially since I will be here for several days, waiting for the next flight out. It is a very interesting place, with a summer population currently about 1100, and about 200+ people who winter over.
As you can see from the picture (taken from "Ob Hill") McMurdo is mostly a logistics base, supporting scientific expeditions elswhere in Antarctica. Nearby sites include the dry valleys (one place I'd love to visit is "Blood Falls"), glaciers, the Antarctic mountains and the edge of the ice shelf (including penguin research). McMurdo also support expeditions further afield, including the South Pole Station. The WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) Divide drilling project is a multi-year effort to drill 3400 meter deep ice cores to study the climate over the past 100,00 years. This is a key effort in learning how climate has evolved over time. And, of course, McMurdo supports the South Pole, including IceCube, which is a major effort there, and probably the biggest project on the continent.
So, most of what goes on here involves logistics - shipping supplies to these camps via a variety of helicopters and aircraft, and providing temporary storage facilities. There are also some scientific laboratories which are mostly used for "local" studies around McMurdo, including studies of sea life under the ice.
Since "supplies" includes everything from various types of fuel to mountaineering equipment to camping gear and scientific equipment, there is a pretty wide range of activities here.
One neat thing about the place is being able to meet people from a huge range of backgrounds. Today (Friday), I ate brunch in the galley (below) with some people from the Army Corps of Engineers, studying drainage issues around McMurdo, and a Catholic priest from New Zealand (here as a chaplain). I've also talked with heavy equipment repairman, helicopter and Twin Otter pilots and mechanics, a handful of carpenters in the New Zealand Army, and a woman studying penguins. There are also groups from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guards, flying the LC-130s and C-17s.
Most of Mcmurdo consists of various types of storage yards and motor pools, and dormitory buildings (many of the buildings that look like barracks). There is also a kitchen and galley (this accounts for about 100 of the people here), a hospital, library, gym, bowling alley (apparently non-functional), small store, post office, chapel, coffee house and bar. Most of the 'recreational' activities operate very limited hours. Since many people work the night shift, some recreational activities are scheduled for the early morning, to accommodate them.
Posted by Spencer Klein at 4:27 PM