Deployment to the 77th Parallel

Yesterday morning, we finally did not hear that wretched hotel room phone ring at 4:45 AM informing of us of yet another 24 hour delay. We were to fly south! We excitedly assembled at the Clothing Distribution Center to do our last bit of packing, ensure we had enough stuff if we "boomerang" (e.g., be forced to turn around mid-flight and return to Christchurch due to poor conditions on the ice. Once our checked bags are loaded, they do not return them to us if we boomerang, so we only have our carry-on), check and weigh our bags (max 85 pounds total), and board the C17 that would wing us to the ice. 

Because of the multiple delays, the number of passengers aboard our fight multiplied, as there were supposed to be several flights over the past few days. This is part of the main body deployment when they move lots of support staff and scientists down for the summer season. 

The lack of windows for the 4+ hour flight makes peering through one of the few peep holes extremely exciting, particularly when the vast ice and topography of the Antarctic comes into view. We basically flew straight south from the 43rd parallel in Christchurch to the 77th parallel in McMurdo.

A successful landing on a beautiful day (very little wind, about 10 F). The C17 lands on its wheels on the ice shelf, which is very thick (probably several hundred meters...I don't know the figure, but its real thick) glacial ice (frozen fresh water) floating atop sea ice (frozen salt water). Somehow, ice shelf seems to work really well to land on.

We then load up on buses (we got to ride the infamous Ivan, below) and drive about 30-45 minutes to Ross Island where McMurdo is nestled.

We are now settling into McMurdo life, but we can't get too comfortable because we'll be heading out to our sea ice camp soon. But not until we've completed all our training. Because the Weddell seals haul out on the sea ice to give birth, we completed sea ice training today to prepare us for our extensive traveling on the frozen ocean throughout the season. The course was designed to help us assess the risks and dangers out on the ice, such as evaluating the width and depth of cracks to make a "go or no go" decision on whether it is safe to cross the crack on foot or by vehicle (unfortunately, no pics!).


  1. That all looks terrifying. You Antarctic folks sure got some pluck.: :-)


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