Wednesday, November 18, 2009

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The Massive C-17 which flew us to McMurdo

View of Antarctica from the air

The really really small bunk room.

View of the ice shelf.

I landed yesterday in McMurdo base at around 2:30. We took a C-17, which is a HUUUUUUUGE military cargo plane. I was sitting right near the biggest dewar of liquid helium I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure it said "do not fly with passengers". If it were to malfunction, that would be it. The flight took 5 hours. We landed on a a runway made from frozen sea ice. After taxiing for a while, we got out in ANTARCTICA!!! It was beautiful. McMurdo is right by the coast, but surrounded by a frozen sea. We could see My Erebus, and a whole lot of other enormous mountains. It was just incredible. The base felt like a post-apocalyptic mad-max type environment. All the cars were lifted 4x4s or conversions or weird machinery on tank treads. Even the ambulance was a monster truck. All the trash has to be sorted and recycled (as everything gets flow back to the US). The food was good. I had steak with salad and braised cabbage. The strangest part was the room. It was a room about twice the size of a standard bedroom, something that could fit 10 people if they were bunked. We, however, had more than 30 of us in there. You had to walk sideways through the hallways. The sun is up 24/7 at this time of year, which is really REALLY weird. I went to bed at around 10:30, but the sun was still as if it was 4 pm during the summer.

When we had some free time, we walked to Discovery Hut, which is where Shackleton and his men stayed when the Discovery was frozen in ice. I didn't get a chance to go in. Maybe on the return. Outside, there was a seal which they caught and killed in 1902, and it was in incredible condition. Even the wood that the hut was made from was in impeccable shape. It looked like it could have been built this year. The whole site was just incredible.

At 7 am the next morning, we went to catch the flight. I'll talk about the flight and the south pole station in the next post.

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