On the Ice

Byrd station

Sorry it has taken me so long to update.  Things have been a bit hectic here, and for a bit I was sick, but now I am back and ready to let everyone know about my first experience at a summer field camp.

Byrd Station:

For those wondering where exactly Byrd station is, S 80.01667 W 119.53333 is the lat/lon.  I was there for a full week, as opposed to 5 days, so I could get all the work done we had there.  We flew in on an LC-130, and the flight took about 4 hours.

Life in the camp:

So life at a field camp is considerably different than life in McMurdo.  For one you live in tent city.

Which at first I thought would be quite cold, but it is quite the opposite.  The sleeping bags are, and tents are extremely warm, to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night because it was too hot.  This is all while temperatures were around 10 to 20 degrees F.

The next major difference, is the plumbing, or lack thereof.  Outhouses and “peegloos” are how things are handled.   And there is a simple set of rules for using these.  Basically there is a bungee cord used to hold the door shut when it isn’t in use.  This also doubles as a means of letting people know the outhouse is available.  Unfortunately this is too complex for some people, which is unbelievably frustrating.  Which is probably why I am still complaining about it weeks later.

The food at field camps is, surprisingly to me, much better than the food in McMurdo.  The staff does an amazing job with not the greatest ingredients.  One night we had filet mignon which was simply delicious.

There are chores to do around the camp as well.  Each day, everyone is expected to shovel 2 garbage cans full of snow.  This is to provide drinking/cooking/cleaning water for the community.  If you want to shower, it is 2 more garbage cans of snow.  This is a pretty cool system.   Also, if you stay there long enough(which I did) you are expected to do what is called “House Mouse” duties.  This means you do dishes for a meal, or empty the galley garbages into the containers to get shipped off continent.

Overall it is a great community where you get to know a lot of people, and people are willing to help out.  As I was the only person from our group sent, it meant getting help from people on station when flying/snowmobiling out to locations.  This is a win/win as it lets people get out of camp and see other parts of the continent, and it also gets me the help I need since putting a station in solo would be a pain.

While I was there I had 3 priorities.  An Install at a fuel Cache, a removal of a site called Swithinbank, and a removal and installation of new instruments at the Byrd camp station.  This at first seemed to be lofty goals, considering other groups had been waiting weeks at a time to fly a single time, and I was going to be backup(because of the delays).  But I was amazingly lucky and managed to get 2 flights the 2 days I was on the schedule, first as the #1 backup, and the second time as a #3 backup.

Upon returning from Byrd it was back to the game of getting things read for the next few trips, and for cargo getting sent off continent.  Namely, Jonathan and Melissa going out on the Odin to Franklin Island, my trip to Pole, and the helo trip to Mullock Glacier.

Then, I took a break to watch the Packers-Bears game.  Superbowl bound!

Mullock Glacier:

Finally, we began our attempts to do Mullock Glacier(which is located along the Trans Antarctic Mountains near McMurdo) before the group split for our various larger trips, and naturally the weather took a turn for the worse.  The past few days have been very windy(with some recorded gusts as high as 40+ knots and high 20 knot gusts in town), a little colder(though the wind makes it seem worse) and cloudy.  The wind and clouds more than anything bring flight operations to a grinding halt.  One day the runway got down to condition 2 for a while due to fog bringing visibility down to less than 1/4 mile.  Things let up yesterday long enough for the trip to Mullock Glacier, but this wasn’t in time for Melissa to go with, which meant that I was travelling with people from outside the group.  The flight was awesome, and there are some great pictures

The station was very windy, but the mountains in the background were awesome.

Tomorrow I head to the South Pole for a few days.

Moral  of the story:  It seems when I fly, so long as no one else in my group is coming along, the weather works out in my favor.

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