This week I had the opportunity to ride out North of town in a Piston Bully with a scientist name Stacy Kim to retrieve one of her dive huts. Stacy is a researcher in Benthic Ecology which is the study of how organisms that live on the sea floor interact to form communities. Stacy uses a tethered, submersible ROV with various instrumentation to help her research. The ROV occasionally requires divers to be in the water. That’s where the dive hut comes in, also known as an apple.
The horizontal feature in this picture is a crack in the sea ice. Seals use these cracks to get up on the ice. They don’t ever have to worry about anything when they’re out of the water because they are to of the food chain outside of the ocean. There were 6 or 7 mothers and pups laying out.
This little guy says, “Pass the Milk, I be thirsty!”
This is a breathing hole the seals use
Mt Erebus is the second largest active volcano in Antarctica and the 6th highest ultra mountain in the world (an ultra mountain is a peak that is at least 4921 ft above the next highest peak around it). Its basically a measure of “mountain independence . Its also visible from drill camp every day.
The mountain has been continuously active since 1972 as you can see in the picture from the steam spouting out the top. There’s lava in there. It also appears to be deceptively close as if its right behind the peak in the foreground. Its actually 30 miles away.
This clearly isn’t my picture but that’s the business going on inside Mt. Erebus.
Every other Thursday night there is an open mic night at the movie theatre in the coffee house. They also show movies there a few times a week. This weeks feature film is Hobo With a Shotgun. I will most certainly be in attendance. One of the drill crew members is a banjo rock star and performed at open mic this week. Daren is shown below on the right. Hes the one shredding on the banjo. You cant even see his fingers because they are all moving at the speed of light. Pretty impressive.
Turns out that just beyond the wall Im sitting at is a lab where penguin poop is dissected. Jean Pennycook was kind enough to show me around and introduce me to some of her friends.
This friendly little guy is a penguin. Unfortunately, he goes back in the freezer when playtime is over.
Anyone that is scheduled for field work in the Antarctic program gets to take Snowcraft I, which also known as Happy Camper. Its basically a crash course in survival for Antarctica. After some classroom instruction the class of about 20 is hauled out to the ice shelf and sets up for a night of camping using Scott tents, mountain tents and snow trenches (optional). We were taught how to build walls using the snow. Antarctic snow is so dry and dense that it has the consistency of Styrofoam and can be cut into shapes with a saw. We had really nice conditions. No wind and pretty warm. The low overnight was only -1 F. We really lucked out.
Hauling our gear out to the camp site aka Snow Mountain City
This is a picture of a Scott tent. Despite the fact that the inventor of this tent died in it, these are tremendously robust tents. They cannot be blown over in a windstorm and you can even cook in them. They are held down by using whats called a deadman which is basically an object buried in the snow tied to the tent using a Truckers H itch.
Before you go to bed in Antarctica sometimes (if you’re really in trouble) you have to make your bed by digging a trench to sleep in.
Here is a shot looking up at the roof and the stairs to get into the trench. I used flagpoles and snowblocks to construct the roof.
HF radio training
Putting a bucket over your head with a thick hood is a great way to simulate white out conditions. This excersize is to show how quickly you can get disoriented. This line of people were attempting to find the bathrooms in the background of the picture.
Part of being in Antarctica is training and lots of it. Luckily most of it is a lot of fun. This was one of many surreal experiences that Ive had here so far. Sitting on a snowmobile on the sea ice in watching a C 17 land and helos (helicopters) take off and land from Mactown with epic mountains in the background.
Mactown has a fleet of Ski Doo Skandia sleds. Most are 550 fans with super wide tracks for towing traction.