On the Ice

26 Jan: McMurdo Station, Weather, Vessel, and Whales!

Hello Everyone!

Greetings from McMurdo Station!

1. More about McMurdo Station

The station I am at – here in Antarctica – is McMurdo Station. It is the largest station in Antarctica (see photo with Observation Hill in the background). It holds roughly up to 1100 people, although this year there are a bit fewer – more like 700 to 850 or so. The station was established back in the 1956-1957 during the International Geophysical Year (IGY). This is the southernmost place you can sail a ship in the world. The folks who are working here are not deployed for more than a year at a time. No families/children – just those who help support the science mission of the US Antarctic Program, as either support staff, or the science groups leading science efforts. The station is staffed year-round, however, there are much fewer who winter-over and stay to work on projects or prepare for the next summer science “field season” (typically 150 give or take a few winter-over). The station has all the things you need just like you have at home: A hospital, a fire department, places to live (dorms), eat (the galley – as this was historically a Naval station), work (in my case, the Crary Science and Engineering Center), waste management, etc.

McMurdo with Observation Hill in the background

2. Weather – and more cancellations

This week has been filled with stormy weather (see attached). We had a storm here in McMurdo, and now that it has moved on, the weather isn’t good at the AWS sites we hope to visit. Hopefully we’ll have a break in the coming days. This is a difficult situation as we are flying long distances to visit the AWS sites, and have to have weather good at the AWS site, at a refueling site, and here in McMurdo is a tall order!

Antarctic storm

3. Whales! (and a Skua)

A few days back, we got to see a minke whale in the open water cut open but the icebreaker! It was a fun to see whales – my very first time here after 10 deployments over the last 22 years. I’m not always here during a time when there is open water. Much of the sea life really does cling to the edge of the sea ice. I also got a photo of a skua – which is a lot like a seagull.

Minke Whale


4. Resupply Vessel Arrives!

Speaking of ships, the Ocean Giant – the resupply vessel has just arrived on station! This next week we will see McMurdo Station, which is already a 24-hour operation, become super busy with the offload and on load of cargo and supplies for the station. It’s an impressive operation involving a segment of the US Navy, the New Zealand Defense Forces, personnel on the vessel along with the support staff (NSF’s contractor Antarctic Support Contract) already here at McMurdo Station.

Ocean Giant vessel arrives

More next time!!

Best Regards,


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