Antarctic research, Amy Moran

TRAVELOGUE - Antarctic Science 2007-2008

Trip down - Oct. 14-16

A grueling 27 1/2 hour-long series of plane rides brought us from Clemson, Missoula, and Coos Bay to Christchurch, New Zealand. We stayed in Christchurch for two days, during which we were issued our Extreme Cold Weather Gear at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) at the United States Antarctic Program staging area and went through a few other preliminary preparations for our trip to the Ice. In our spare time we walked around the city, saw the sights, and tried to recover from jet lag. On our third day we reported to the CDC at 6:00 AM to change into our flight gear, weigh our bags (we were allowed 75 lbs total apiece, except for dive gear and including about 15 pounds of ECW), check through security, and board the airplane. Our plane was a C-17 New York Air National Guard plane that makes the flight to McMurdo Station in about 5 1/2 hours.

The team in front of a statue of Robert Falcon Scott
Extreme Cold Weather Gear display



Boarding the C-17
Boarding the C-17
Art in front of the ECW display
On the plane
Trying on ECW gear

Bruce, Chris, Amy, Art, and Lindy standing in front of Sir Robert Falcon Scott's statue in Christchurch


Trying on our ECW gear

Inside the C-17 in flight


Arrival and first week - Oct. 16-20

On Monday Oct. 16 we arrived at the McMurdo seaice airfield at around 2:00 PM. The C-17 landed on a runway that was constructed on the sea ice which is approximately 6 feet thick. We unloaded from the jet and were taken to the station on large people movers that are specially outfitted to drive on the snow and ice. The people movers took us to the station, where we had an orientation lecture and then went to get our bags and find our rooms. For the rest of the first week, we had a string of orientation meetings and training sessions in everything from waste management to winter "survival school" (A.K.A. Happy Camper School, an overnight camping trip to learn basic Antarctic survival and camping skills). We also went out for our first SCUBA dive, found quite a few of our study animals (nudibranchs), and had a fantastic seal encounter. Over the next few days, check the photos page for more images of our first week at McMurdo Station.

Getting off the C-17
Group in Crary lab
McMurdo Station from Observation Hill  


In the first week, we unpacked the 250 pounds of scientific equipment we shipped down and settled into our lab space in the Crary lab.


McMurdo Station viewed from the top of Observation Hill (a steep but quick 20-minute hike to the top gives you beautiful views)


Lindy on Observation Hill

First dive
Seal in dive hole  
  Lindy on top of Observation Hill looking out towards Mt. Erebus Bruce gets into the dive hole while Amy gets ready to go

A Weddell seal that came to visit us on our first dive

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Oct. 21-27

This week we finished all of our training and continued diving and working on lab experiments. Lindy and Chris survived 'survival school,' a.k.a. "happy camper school" (see description from Chris below). RIght after they got back the weather deteriorated and we had a couple of days of "condition 2," when travel outside is restricted because of cold, high winds, and low visibility due to blowing snow. On Friday the weather got really nice again and Pema Kitaeff, our fourth diver, arrived just in time to enjoy it! We've made six dive trips to a variety of local sites and yesterday hit the nudibranch jackpot at a site just off of the station called "Dayton's Wall" that we had never dived on before. We have been photographing and cataloging the specimens we collected and getting our lab setup perfected.


Here's a description and some photos of Happy Camper School, courtesy of Chris:

Being first-timers down in McMurdo, Lindy and I had to complete survival training affectionately known as Happy Camper School.  Happy Camper is a 2-day, 1-night trip staying on the ice sheet.  The first morning starts off with some classroom time going over the survival gear and some cold-weather basics.  After that we put on our ECW gear, loaded up the food and equipment, and hopped into the Delta.  After some more training in the field dealing with setting up camp we set off to do just that.  We set up tents (some just like R. F. Scott used), built a snow wall to protect from the wind, and many people made snow structures to sleep in.  Lindy and I both decided that we should take this opportunity to sleep in the quinzee that the class built.  A quinzee is basically a hollowed out snow mound that you enter through a tunnel.  The next morning we got up and did more training with radios and weather related emergencies.  All in all, we were lucky to have great weather (about 0° F overnight) and beautiful skies.  We stayed warm and learned a ton about cold-weather survival.  That being said… we aren’t lining up to do it again!

  Scott tent Snowy beard Lindy  
  Setting up a Scott tent Chris with some frost Lindy in front of a snow shelter  
  Snow shelter Snow wall After the trip  
  One of several shelters built by the group A wall made of snow blocks Lindy and Chris afterwards  
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Oct. 28-Nov. 5

This week, the team has been diving continuously to look for new species of nudibranchs and their egg masses at several sites around McMurdo Sound. With the help of McMurdo Fleet Ops, we had a new dive hole drilled at a site called Arrival Heights which is about half a mile from McMurdo Station. This was one of our best collecting sites last year and looks to be a good spot this year as well. The hole-drilling process is very impressive; the dive hole is 40 inches wide and about 15 feet deep, a few hundred feet from shore. The day of drilling the temperature was -18F with 20 kt winds, making for an interesting (and chilly) Antarctic experience on the sea ice. We jumped in that afternoon and were happy to find that it is a great dive spot.

We also had a visit from an NBC news crew this week that was filming for a Today Show special on "the Ends of the Earth." They came out with us on a dive and filmed the whole process (above water), which was pretty fun - we enjoyed the brush with fame and hanging out with the camera and sound crew.

This week we are preparing for our Wednesday science lecture where we'll present our work so far to the science community here at McMurdo. We are also working further on enhancing our underwater oxygen meter work with oxygen in egg masses in nature.

  Chris and Lindy drive Pisten Bully 310 Drilling a dive hole Moving the hut over the hole  
  Chris and Lindy drive the pisten bully (our main means of transport to dive sites) Tom drills a dive hole while Rob looks on - the ice is 14 feet thick Dragging the dive hut over the hole - the hut is heated!  
  Today Show Chris and Ann Ice tubbing  
  Mike and Bob (part of the Today Show crew) film us as we prepare for a dive Chris and Ann Curry outside the dive hut A relaxing post-dive dip in the Ice Spa  
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Nov. 5 - 15

This week has been diving, diving, and more diving, as we look for new nudibranch species and hunt for their egg masses. We have also started a project with pycnogonids (sea spiders) looking at the combined effects of environmental oxygen availability and adult animal size on speed of movement. This project is also known as "flipping spiders" since we assess the animal's condition by how quickly they can right themselves once they have been turned upside down.

The big trip this week was a day-long expedition by helicopter to the NSF field camp at New Harbor, about 50 miles from McMurdo Station. We took all our dive gear over and dove at an open hole (= no hut or other shelter to dive from) that had been melted by Stacy Kim's group from Moss Landing a few days before. The goal was to find dorid nudibranchs, which were there in abundance (they are rare around McMurdo Station). The weather was beautiful, which was fortunate since our dive tenders had to spend several hours hovering over the dive hole without any heat or shelter. The lack of shelter also made for a chilly exit from the water for the divers, but we were able to warm up at the field camp between dives.


  In the helo Unloading the helo Getting ready to dive  
  Rob, Chris, and Amy in the helicopter We arrive in New Harbor and unload the helo Pema, Amy, and Rob get ready to dive  
  Getting in Dive tenders relax Chris drives ATV  
  The water was about 90 feet deep During the dive, Lindy and Chris relax Chris drives the dive support ATV  
  McMurdo from helo Spider flipping Pycnogonid  
  View of McMurdo Station from the helo Lindy, Bruce, and Art work with sea spiders One of our experimental animals  
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