An Illustrated Account of Our Travels...

This travelogue was authored by Erika Schreiber, a Research Associate in the lab from 2005-2007 who went to McMurdo Station for the 2006-2007 season.
Royal Society Mountain range

Monday, November 27, 2006

We had our last real dive day yesterday since Art and Amy are scheduled to leave here tomorrow - the time has just flown by! We are all going to really miss them when they leave, it won't be the same but the rest of us will surely be busy for the next two weeks! Thanksgiving was the most fun weekend yet; the food was amazing and we convinced Werner Herzog to take some photos of our table at dinner so as soon as we get them, they'll be posted. The galley staff did the most amazing job on dinner Saturday night! They had everything you could think of having at a tradtional Turkey day dinner - green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, turkey with gravy, pumpkin pie, etc. Yesterday, the gang plus Rob, Christian, and our tender-for-the-day Taryn,trekked it on out to Cape Evans for a nice long day of diving. When we finished up we kept traveling out alittle ways to the Barne Glacier, which was completely gorgeous, and while we were there we got to see a Snow Petrel! This doesn't happen often so we feel very lucky to have seen such a rare and beautiful bird! We got back too late to make it to dinner but we were all so tired that we just wanted to get to bed. There is much to do today in preparation for Amy and Art's departure and tonight we'll be sure to give them a proper send-off! Below are some photos of us out at the Barne Glacier and there are some new underwater photos on the Animals page that Bruce took during yesterday's dive - he's gotten really good so check them out!

Taryn and Erika after the polar plunge Amy Co-PI scuffle # 4
Seals in front of the Barne Glacier Barne Glacier I The scuffle continues...
Barne Glacier II Barne Glacier III Cute seal!
Barne Glacier IV Bruce Another cute seal
Check out the snow petrel Snow petrel

Monday, November 20, 2006

Today is another lab day for our group; Amy is working on a Tritonia respiration run while Art is busy continuing to measure oxygen gradients. We hope to get caught up on webpage additions today but that's been the plan for the last 10 days and it hasn't happened yet. The weather here is dreary; the snow is more sleety today than it has been and the flights in from Christchurch have all been canceled. We had a nice late day of diving on Saturday out at the Cape Evans Wall and then a busy day of science yesterday after brunch. Tomorrow we're planning on diving at Arrival Heights and then making sure to sign up for our Thanksgiving dinner seating at the dining hall. Back to work for now, hopefully we'll take some more photos to post soon! On the McMurdo photos page we've put the photos of the J-crib (Crary lab's janitor closet) aquarium and their shout out to Amy as the 'Scientist of the Week' - yep, it's a pretty prestigious honor, we're all very proud of her!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Here are the photos from the Helo trip we took to New Harbor yesterday. Definitely one of the highlights of our visit!

Gearing up Team Nudi Here we go...
Buckle up McMurdo as we take off BigBadJon
Art & Erika Amy New Harbor from above
The Jamesway where we dived Comin' in hot Perfect landing
Unloading New Harbor camp New Harbor
NH kitchen NH kitchen table Amy
Dragging our stuff to the Jamesway Landscape I Landscape II
Landscape III Amy Amy hiking with Bruce
Landscape IV Glaciers in the distant Jon & Erika about to leave NH
Landscape from helo I Landscape from Helo II Landscape from Helo III

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Apparently, almost each week on Wednesday afternoon the recompression chamber here at McMurdo gets tested to make sure it's functioning properly. We heard about this on Tuesday while out diving with Rob and we thought that sounded like an interesting process to witness since several of us had never seen one in action before. We showed up to see the demonstration and were talked into actually getting in the chamber and going down 130 ft! We were inside for about 30 min total and were down at 130 ft for about half the time. It got really hot on the way down (about 80 degrees) and then our voices changed and it sounded like we'd all been sucking down helium balloons all day. Once we started laughing, it was very hard to stop and Rob, Steve, and Joe just kept peering at us through the windows like we were crazy. The way it's setup, the people operating the chamber can hear everything said inside, while the people inside can only hear what the operators say if they press a button - it's a total scam but totally worth it!

Rob setting up Amy & Erika about to begin descent Amy & Erika near the windows
Bruce with his oxygen mask Our initial descent At 130 ft - can you tell?
A more composed Amy & Erika Bruce & Amy - pretty relaxed Breathing oxygen

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Here are a few more photos that were taken last week either out at Cape Evans or at Arrival Heights.

Amy & Erika in front of the Erebus Glacier Amy, Erika, and Bruce
Glacier behind dive hut Art & Jon Jon with the drill
Amy The Reedrill Lowering the drill...
Tom's just getting started... Up & down, up & down... Shake it off...
keep shaking Water!! Lots  of water actually
Clearing area for the hut Removing ice from the hole Heat up the hut and we're ready

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Yesterday was such a fun day! We got to go out to Arrival Heights and finally meet the man who drills all our dive holes! The drilling process is amazing to watch, we all stood in awe as this giant drill basically cut right through 17 feet of ice! It didn't make as much noise as Erika thought it would but once Tom (the drill operator) hit the water, it started gushing out all over the place and that was pretty fun to see. We all took video and/or photos of the process and if Erika can ever figure out how to add video clips to this page, she'll post it. After the hole was finished, the heated dive hut was towed in over it and then all the surrounding snow and ice was packed down smooth. Amy, Bruce, Art, and Jon were able to fit in two dives at Arrival Heights yesterday and they hauled in an unbelievable number of animals and egg masses!! It was an incredible haul for a single day of diving and now we will definitely be busy, busy, busy - as if we weren't already! To celebrate our great dive day and in the spirit of TGIF, Art, Erika, Jon, Rob, and Steve decided to finally hit up the Burger Bar! It was SO much fun! Not a very wide selection of items on the menu but the cheeseburgers were very tasty! Following our successful Friday, we had a productive team progress meeting this morning and got geared up to really get going on lab work in the next few days. Erika worked on a Sterechinus respiration run, Bruce imaged more egg masses, Jon cataloged all the animals in our tables, Art worked on oxygen gradients in some of the new masses, and Amy helped everyone and organized our upcoming dive schedule. We'll spend the next few days in the lab, continuing data collection on both masses and adults, and hopefully be back out diving by the middle of next week!

Monday, October 30, 2006

We'll be working in the lab all day today; our next scheduled dive is Wednesday and so there is much work to be done on the egg masses that were collected yesterday. Speaking of yesterday...we went out with Rob and two other dive tenders to the Jetty and the team did one dive. They found many more Tritonia, two Dotos, and several egg masses. Amy and Bruce spawned 9 more Sterechinus this morning and were able to pick out 7 females and 2 males...great job! Amy and Erika plan on imaging the egg mass whose embryos were used in the respiration run yesterday while Art and Jon measure oxygen gradients in the new egg masses. We're all quite busy and time is just flying by. The station is jam packed with people since they once again cancelled all flights to the pole today. Our Pisten Bully has been fixed and is all ready to make the dive trip on Wednesday. Hooray, and a big thanks to the Heavy Shop for fixing it so fast!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

First, we apologize for letting almost a full week pass without updating this page, but you all should really take that as a good sign that we're staying very busy and getting a whole lot accomplished. Today, we're back in the lab, as we were yesterday, doing respiration runs on Tritoniella larvae at two temperatures. Yesterday, we measured the metabolic rates of Sterechinus larvae at 1.5 and -1.5 C and got some very nice results; these runs take a while to set up for and then the incubation times are fairly long so they really become an all day event. Thursday was our second diving day at Little Razorback Island (see dive photo page) and the group did an even better job this time! Everyone seemed much more comfortable with the process and they were so quick gearing up that they were able to get two dives in! Afterwards, we had some fairly major issues with our Pisten Bully, which had leaked about 20 L of diesel onto the ice while we were inside the hut, and had to cram into Rob's PB to truck it over to see Scott's Hut. I've come to learn that Scott actually had 2 huts, one near the station on Hut Point that was built around 1902 (?), and the one we visited out at Cape Evans which was built in 1910. The photos below are from in and around this amazing place!

Scott's hut View from the front of Scott's hut Cross on hill behind hut
skis hanging on the wall right inside the front door Stove Clothes hanging on the end of a bunk Desk next to bunk beds on the left
pony stable Flour Tool shed
Seal blubber Pantry I Pantry II
Hot chocolate...yum! Hanging dishes Science lab
Scott's bunk Dead penguin Biscuits
London newspaper penguin eggs

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I would like to start by saying Good Morning and Go Tigers! I know how important tonight's game is for all of us and I really wish I could be in section M row I seat 4 to cheer them on myself but, seeing as how that is far from possible, I pledge to find a TV here on station and tune to ESPN to watch our game and root for our Tigers! Now, about our camping trip... What an experience! I seem to have developed a much more positive memory of the trip compared to my general attitude while actually on the trip. It all started on Friday at 9am, we had about an hour of lecture in the classroom here on station before gearing up and heading out on ice shelf almost a mile past Scott Base (the NZ station). The delta dropped off our group of 20 campers alittle over a mile from the Instructor Hut (a heated hut where the instructors lecture and where they spend the night) and so we trudged our way along the road until we reached the I-hut (about a 25 min walk). There they gave us lunch and began talking to us about how the day would go and how to use the Whisperlite stoves, etc. We broke into groups and practiced lighting the stoves and even how to trouble-shoot them if they wouldn't work. We had to pack up all our sleeping bags, pads, and fleece liners and then load everything into the Pisten Bully to be driven over to the camp site. While the instructors (Kevin Emery and Matt Smith) drove our bags (personal and sleeping) to the campsite, we all trudged along in their tracks. After reaching the camp area, and after quite a bit of deliberation over where our exact camp spot should be, we chose the location and gathered all the supplies we needed to set up (tents, stoves, shovels, ice axes, saws, tent stakes, etc.). This began around 3:30pm and by 9pm we had erected 8 tents (2 Scott tents & 6 mountaineering), 1 Quinzy, 2.5 trenches (the half trench was abandoned when the weather starting getting bad), and 1 nice wind wall made from snow blocks surrounding the entire camp. There was a permanent outhouse about 50 yds away. Once camp was established, snow was melted to boiling in pots on the stove, and we each had a dehydrated eat-out-of-the-bag dinner (I had Stroganoff flavored with beef and noodles, Amy had Sierra Chicken) before getting ready for bed. It took some time setting up all the pads and sleeping bags in the tents (Amy, Bruce, and I shared a 3 person tent) but we were all inside ready for sleep by 10:30pm. Overall, the night was uneventful; the wind picked up, then died down, a few people snored quite loudly, and I had to get up, get dressed, and walk to the outhouse twice. I think very few people had a really good night's sleep, I know I got about 5 very broken hours of sleep. In the morning we had to have everything packed up and ready to go as if a heliocopter was coming to rescue us at 9am sharp. We met this deadline and at 9am on the dot, Kevin and Matt appeared in the Pisten Bully, loaded all our bags into it, and told us to walk back to the I-hut. Next, we got warmed up, ate some breakfast, and settled in for 3 and 1/2 hours of lecture on risk assessment and how to use VHF & HF radios. Then it was back outside to get some practice using the HF radios before beginning the scenarios. Fortunately, we were running out of time and were only able to begin (but not finish) the 'white-out' scenario, a situation for which half the group had to put 5 gallon buckets on their heads to imitate blizzard conditions and use a rope to fan out and find a missing person. At 1:35pm we were finally on our way back down the road to be picked up by the Delta Gale and driven back into town. We arrived at the SSC (Science Support Center) at 2pm, shed some layers, and packed in to the classroom to watch 2 more videos before finally, finally being done with Happy Camper Camp! What a long 2 days it was, but now we can say we spent a night out on the ice in Antarctica, which is pretty cool I guess, although it was still really, really cold.

Erika in front of the Delta Walking to the I-hut Unloading the pisten bully
Setting up the Scott tent Digging a trench Building the wind wall from blocks of snow
Our snow wind wall The mountaineering tents Kevin putting a flag near our Quinzy
Our whole camp from afar Art eating dehydrated teriyaki chicken Amy & Erika all ready for bed
The gang in the I-hut Bruce getting into the Delta for the ride home Art fast asleep on the ride home

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I don't have a lot of time and we are all SUPER tired but I had to post that we all made it through Happy Camper camp with flying colors! It was freezing cold (about -40 degrees Farenheit last night) but we learned many new and valuable outdoor survival skills, at least, I definitely did. I knew we were not in SC anymore for sure! I will be posting much many more details about the overnight tomorrow after a good night's sleep!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Today was quite a busy day for us. We woke up, showered, and made it to breakfast by 7:15am so that we had time to eat before our "Dirt Tour", a foot tour of the entire station (photo right: Amy and I after the tour). After learning better how to navigate among the 200 buildings here at McMurdo, all of us headed over to the Chalet, the main offices for NSF, for our Science In-Brief to learn more about how we'll need to work with each of the different departments. Next, we hit the lab to begin unpacking our cargo boxes and rounding up supplies from the stockroom. We ran into a few speedbumps along the way (no 'E' glassware, cargo that hasn't arrived, etc) but we ended up with an incredible lab space so we really can't complain! It will clearly take the next few days to get the lab up and running but we made a lot of progress today and will just keep chipping away at it in between various training sessions and 'schools' that we are required to attend this week. We did find out today that we definitely will have to take the Snow Craft I class which includes an overnight on the ice so their should be some very entertaining and memorable images from that trip. I bet we'll build a mean igloo...

Dirt Tour

Monday, October 16, 2006

Our team made it to the CDC by 8:45am and immediately began gearing up in our ECW clothing, repacking/organizing our checked and carry-on bags, and weighing practically everything in sight. That all went fairly smoothly especially because the weight restrictions ended up being considerably less strict than what had been hammered into our heads. After you and your bags were ready to go, we had to go get in line to check-in, get boarding passes, and officially weigh-in our bags and ourselves. Then there was about 15 min of down time before we were briefed on what exactly was to take place and were shown a short video on the procedure. Then it was time for the last bathroom break before going through one more x-ray security scan, and hopping on a bus to take us to the plane. The plane, a C-17 Globemaster, was massive. I think we had about 115 passengers not including the Air Force personnel. We were lucky because this plane has actual seats (75 regular airplane seats and 50 pull down seats along the sides of the plane) and was rather comfortable, certainly much more so than i was initially expecting. It was a 5 hour flight and they gave each of us giant brown sack lunches with 2 sandwiches, cookies, chips, rolos, fruit, juice, water, etc. - it was very nice. After we reached cruising altitude they even let anyone who wanted to go up in the cockpit to talk to the pilots and take photographs, it was amazing! While i was up there i asked the pilots what the weather was currently like at McMurdo and they told me "-21 degrees and 3 mph winds with blowing snow" ..Buurrrrr... All in all it was an exceptional flight and we made it here on the first try!

Jon drinking waste

Pisten Bully
Above photo is of a Pisten Bully. This is what we'll drive out on all our dive trips!
Amy and I after the Dirt Tour
high fives
Amy & Erika with our shovels!
Art: The Manly Man
back to front view of C-17
front to back view of C-17
C-17 cockpit
view out plane window

October 16, 2006

We're in Christchurch, NZ at the moment, waiting for our flight to the ice. We had a relatively painless day of travel from the US to NZ - no real delays, lost baggage, or bad flights. When we arrived in Christchurch, there were probably another 50+ grantees/RPSC employees on our plane and we were all briefed by someone from Raytheon on how we were to check-in and retrieve our luggage. During check-in we received info on our hotel reservations and then we hopped on a shuttle to take us to the Windsor B & B - our #1 pick! After settling into our rooms and showering, we set out to explore Christchurch alittle and to grab some lunch. It was Saturday at the time and so they had a wonderful little artist's market set up in Cathedral Square. We had a nice lunch (and later dinner) and a fun seafood and veggie restaurant before heading over to the Botanical Gardens.

The next day we had to be at the CDC (clothing distribution center) at 1pm. When we arrived, we had to wait for everyone to slowly filter in before we could all watch a video on the process of getting fitted for your cold weather gear and the flight to the ice. We also were able to bring our laptops with us to turn them in during clothing fitting to be screened by IT and cleared for connection to the network at McMurdo. You are strongly encouraged to try on EVERYTHING that you're issued to make sure it all fits and all zippers/buttons/snaps are working properly. There is a limited amount of replacement gear on station so if you need to trade something in for a different size, now was the time to do so. It took about 2 hours to try on all our gear and trade in for the best-fitting sizes. Afterwards, we met up with Jon, Art, and Bruce, collected our laptops, got some coffee, and waited for a shuttle back to the hotel. Our flight to McMurdo was scheduled for 9am the next morning and we were told that we had to be at the CDC by 6am to weigh our bags, pack our carry-on, and change into our cold-weather gear. We were reminded our the strict luggage weight restrictions (each person is allowed no more than 75 lbs. of checked baggage), as well as the new rules regarding carry-ons (you must use your carry-on orange bag and it must be able to fit within the bins provided around the CDC; laptops must be packed in the orange bag when you're checking to see if it fits). It was good news when we were told our 5-hr flight would be aboard a C-17 Globemaster (now with seats!), instead of a C-130. Hopefully our flight will be on-time and we won't have to 'boomerang', which is what they call it when a plane must turn around and head back to Christchurch during flight due to poor weather conditions in McMurdo. Cross your fingers for us...

We awoke at 4:30am today to shower and get packed up before the shuttle comes to get us for the CDC at 5:30am. After we'd showered, we got a knock on our door telling us that our flight had been delayed 3 hours, so now we didn't need to be at the CDC until 9am. Since I had already showered and couldn't fall back asleep, I decided to go ahead and take this time to work on this Travelogue and try and catch up on our postings. Because the weather changes very rapidly on the ice, it's not unlikely that it takes us several days and many failed attempts at reaching McMurdo. The record for boomerangs is currently 7 and we're just hoping not to get anywhere near that because when you are forced to return to Christchurch mid-flight, they won't return your checked bags to you so you may return to your hotel with only what you packed in your carry-on. If you are delayed for 3 days, they will unload the plane and allow you to access your bags. Hopefully, with a lot of luck, we'll be on our way in a few hours and the weather will cooperate for us to land in McMurdo. Stay tuned.

Amy & Art at The Antarctic Centre

ECW gear bags BEFORE




Erika trying on ECW gear
Art & Jon at the CDC
Bruce in the check-in line

September 1, 2006

We have spent the last several months preparing for our first season on the Ice. Our first major task was to complete a very comprehensive document, the Support Information Worksheet (SIP), detailing all of our anticipated transportation, equipment, and lab space needs while in Antarctica. Once the folks at Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC) had received our SIP they mailed each participant on our team of five researchers our medical/dental packets to fill out and return for medical clearance. Everyone planning on traveling to the Antarctic under the auspices of the National Science Foundation (NSF) is required to undergo thorough medical and dental examinations to determine whether or not they are physically qualified (PQd) for travel to a remote place where care options are limited. As soon as all of our medical information had been submitted, we turned our focus to packing and shipping lab equipment to send ahead of us to McMurdo via a vessel leaving from Port Hueneme, CA. As is the case with all other activities related to the Antarctic, sending necessary research supplies and equipment to the Antarctic is a complex task (to check out the 43-page instructions on packing and shipping, click here). In mid-August, we shipped off 3 large and well-labeled crates full of lab equipment (see photo below). They will be waiting for us at McMurdo station when we arrive.

With our tentative deployment date of October 15 rapidly approaching, our attention is now focused on packing personal baggage that won’t exceed the specific weight limitations, reading and re-reading the United States Antarctic Program Participant Guide, and trying to contain our excitement.