Antarctica Expedition : Post #1 - October 6-8, 2012

This post kicks off Diane's blog/diary that she kept during her expedition to Antarctica.  There are many entries to be posted here in the coming weeks, along with any updates on the happenings around Gondwana: Images of an Ancient Land. Check back often or follow Gondwana on Twitter and Facebook!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Still in New Zealand!!!

Oct 6

After a fun plane ride on Air New Zealand, I checked into the Elms Hotel in Christchurch. Christchurch suffered extensive damage during the earthquake 2 years ago and is still trying to recover. The downtown area is pretty much closed down, homes have been abandoned, and many buildings have been demolished.

The Elms has no reception area, restaurant, and no services... so after checking in, I put 2 large duffels and my 2 carry-ons on a dolly and rolled it up to the 4th floor. I spent most of the day trying to connect to Wi-Fi (which never did work) and waited for Murphy (my photography assistant) who arrived around 6:00.

We settled in and went to the George Hotel to eat and use the Internet.

Oct 7

Murphy and I discovered Brigittes, a cute cafe in the Miraval area of Christchurch, for breakfast.

After a leisurely morning, we went to the CDC office (Clothing Distribution Center) where we were briefed, computer checked, and received our required gear for any trip within or to Antarctica.

Black wind overalls, black balaclava wind stopper (face mask), goggles, black fleece hat, Red USAP Antarctic Jacket and White rubber thermal "moon" boots. We are required to wear this gear on all flights including the C-17 Cargo plane that will take us to McMurdo. We were also informed that many times as you are approaching Antarctica (5 hour trip) the weather is too bad to land so you "boomerang" and come back to Christchurch. Sooo, you need to pack a boomerang bag with enough items for 2 days and in case you do return to Christchurch, you will have some clothing and essentials.

We had a fabulous Thai dinner with Lou Sanson (who heads the New Zealand Antarctic program), after picking up 3 bottles of 2009 New Zealand Pinot Noirs to bring to McMurdo.

Upon arriving home from dinner, we were told that our deployment from Christchurch was delayed 24 hours so we would not be leaving the next morning.

Oct 8

Murphy and I checked out of the Elms and headed for the Commodore Hotel...Wi-Fi!! That is why I have been writing the last 3 days of events today! We also have a restaurant! And a sauna and pool.

Catching up on all.

McMurdo has a live camera that views the weather:

http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm

You should check it out!

So we viewed it and there was no visibility.. it now looks a little better but it will have to stay clear and the runway needs to be cleaned before we can be authorized to leave New Zealand.

We shall see... Low-key evening.

Posted by Diane Tuft

Antarctica Expedition : Post #3 - October 10-13, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Antarctica. Oct 10-13

Well… I am here!! It is the most beautiful place in the world. We flew here on an airbus and flew over the sea ice with incredible cracks and ice formations.

We all need to dress in our ERB clothing. Moon boots are a must.

 
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On the bus to McMurdo.

On the bus to McMurdo.

 

We received our briefing and settled into dorm 203B. Room 213 is equipped with one bunk bed, one single bed, 2 closets, a chair, a desk, and a dresser. The view from our window is pretty awesome.

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After one day of heavy training - learning how to use our VMF radio, our pagers, touring the science labs (Crary) and meeting with my NSF manager - we were ready to do the mandatory "Happy Camper" on Friday and Saturday. This involves learning about the hazards of cold weather and how to survive if we are stranded.

We all dress in our ERB with lots of layers and leave in the Delta to camp out:

 
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We really experienced the cold... it was -63 degrees!!! I learned what clothing will and will not work in such conditions. We all could hardly move. The only way to stay warm was to work.

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We learned to make a snow wall by sawing rectangular blocks of snow. The wall would block some of the wind coming from the south. The tents would be set up in back of this wall.

We also learned how to set up our own tents:

This is Murphy digging her ice cave!!

This is Murphy digging her ice cave!!

It seemed that the only time in my life that I would be able to sleep in the snow was now, so I took advantage of the skills of Patrick (who is a builder from Chicago) and slept in an ice cave that he created for three!

Here we are: Lya, Patrick and me in "The Taj Mahal"

Here we are: Lya, Patrick and me in "The Taj Mahal"

 

The evening was beyond freezing. I slept with two pairs of wool socks with a toe warmer in between the layers, three pairs of assorted fleece and long under wear, two long underwear tops with a fleece on top, my bib overalls, and a hat. All under a fleece mummy liner inside a down mummy sleeping bag.

We all survived except Michael who ended up having severe frost bite on the tip of his thumb,

Morning was difficult. Very cold. We had to try and eat something, take down the camp and head back to our hut for more training.

I was a "Happy Camper" but I was also happy to be back in some warmth.

 
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Finally back at McMurdo. Happy to have a long hot shower...a nice hot meal and go out to their local Saturday night bar, "Gallaghers". Pretty good band and a great DJ. Most of the scientists and people that work at McMurdo are pretty young - college,  College PHD's - so there was a lot of beer and some great dancing.

Sunday here is a day of rest... so brunch is from 11-1 and it is pretty elaborate. We finally received our cameras, etc. and I am now able to email you.

Love to All..

Tomorrow is a day on the Sea Ice!! So excited!!

Posted by Diane Tuft

Antarctica Expedition : Post #20 - November 17, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Antarctica Nov 17

The Last Day

It all went so quickly and I had so much to learn on my last day.

Our C-17 was leaving for Christchurch at 4:00PM and I had to pack in as much as possible in the few hours I had left.

At 7:00AM I met the head of the Carpentry shop for breakfast. We headed up to the top of the hill where I was able to have a first hand experience of the "coolest" department.

 
 
Stretch class at Carpentry...every morning at 7:30

Stretch class at Carpentry...every morning at 7:30

Everyone decorates their station

Everyone decorates their station

The new sign for the fire department

The new sign for the fire department

I then went to visit Welding and met Henry Finch who is 73 and a retired welder. He teaches jewelry making 3 days a week at McMurdo and has been coming to the Ice for the past 8 years since he retired.

Some of Henry's creations...

Silver Wire Sculptures

Silver Wire Sculptures

A welded creation

A welded creation

It was then time to visit the Pressure Ridges for the last time. The day was warm (12 degrees), no wind, blue skies. This would be my 3rd visit to the Pressure Ridges.

McMurdo is a town with every service necessary to be a self-reliant town. It was particularly interesting to see how a town operates.

After eating a quick lunch (last meal at the Galley!), I squeezed in a visit to the Power Plant, Water Filtration facility and Waste Management.

The Power Plant has four huge generators that create so much heat that they provide most of the hot water necessary for McMurdo.

Becca is in charge of all of the Waste recycling at McMurdo... she is a Microbiologist and spends her day making sure that each microorganism is doing its job in getting rid of any organic waste.

This is the chart of the various microorganisms that are necessary to do this job.

This is the chart of the various microorganisms that are necessary to do this job.

This is the chart of the various microorganisms that are necessary to do this job.

After the solid is separated from the liquid, the clean liquid is deposited in the sea. The water that we drink is from the sea and is desalinated by reverse osmosis. Chlorine is added and we have our drinking water!

This is the solid waste left after all of the microorganisms do their work. It has no smell and is put into containers, which will be shipped with all of the other trash to California on the Icebreaker in December. This waste will be incinerated. Other waste will go to landfills.

It was now time to get into the Delta to board the C-17 to Christchurch. It will be the first time we will see dark since out arrival in Antarctica.

The Delta

The Delta

The C-17

The C-17

Very roomy!!

On our way 

Now I am thinking about my memories of McMurdo... A few of my favorite images…

Crazy rock formations

Crazy rock formations

The Dry Valleys

The Dry Valleys

The colors of the cliffs

The colors of the cliffs

Ice crystals forming patterns in the sky

Ice crystals forming patterns in the sky

The Barne Glacier

The Barne Glacier

A snow covered Hagglund

A snow covered Hagglund

Peaking out from an Ice Cave

Peaking out from an Ice Cave

Mt. Erebus

Mt. Erebus

Diamond Dust

Diamond Dust

Lake Vanda

Lake Vanda

Ventifacts

Ventifacts

Last sunset at McMurdo

Last sunset at McMurdo

Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes

Pressure Ridges

Pressure Ridges

Light over the Pressure Ridges

Light over the Pressure Ridges

Quite a Dream!!!

I hope you enjoyed the trip!!

 

Posted by Diane Tuft