Day 9

Paul and Elena on Observation Hill.

Sunday Dec. 9, 2018

Sundays in McMurdo are a relaxing and enjoyable day for all. For most of the staff and contractors here this is their only day off each week. Today we were able to catch a few extra z’s (Nobody tell John Schutt) and at 10 am enjoyed a quite elaborate spread of food for Sunday brunch. While lounging a bit and watching movies sounded like a pretty good activity choice, Elena and I decided to brave the high winds and lower temperatures and set out on an early hike to the top of Observation Hill. Looking up from the bottom of the hill, it looks like a close to vertical ascent but a series of small switch backs made the climb much easier than I had first anticipated. We marched up to the top in less than half an hour to find a view that was worth every footstep. Looking back down, we could see McMurdo station in its entirety. It was amazing to see town from this perspective. It’s hard to believe that something this elaborate exists isolated at the bottom of the world. To our left was the McMurdo Sea Ice, beyond that a seemingly endless chain of frozen mountains.To our right was the Ross Ice Shelf and a lightly smoking Mt. Erebus. Honestly, it was quite humbling to look out at such an array of scenery and truly realize where life has taken me.

The view of McMurdo from Observation Hill. Fuel tanks in foreground; the bright blue roof marks building 155, the dining / store / admin / residence hall.


After we returned from our trip, many of us attended a tour of the Query Lab science building (editor’s comment: it’s the Crary lab, so this is either a fantastic Freudian slip or Paul being funny). Here we learned of the current research occurring here in McMurdo and saw many of the spectacular specimens on display. The tour ended in the aquatic lab where we were given the opportunity to not only see but even touch some of the local aquatic life currently being studied.

From the Query Lab, we all seemed to go our separate ways. Mostly finishing up small tasks and relaxing a bit before supper. In the early afternoon, we did find out some news about when we will could be entering the deep field. Remember that we weren’t going to tell John Schutt about our late and lazy morning? He is the only member of our field team currently in the field. John went out early to the Davis-Ward ice to start setting up camp and to groom a runway for us to land the Basler aircrafts. He’s really been putting in the work and has the airstrip mostly completed. His hard work has allowed us to quickly move forward with our plans to enter the field. Because of this, we have been bumped up a day and tentatively John McBrine, Brian Hynek, and I will be leaving for the field this Wednesday, December 12th. Weather permitting, the current schedule puts Elena and Sheridan out on Thursday, and Brian Rougeux and Jim out on Friday. We’ll keep you all posted and let you know how this all works out!

Paul Scholar

(Editor’s note #2:  I connected with Jim Karner late Saturday our time and heard exactly what Paul says above;  that our efforts to get ready quickly are paying off.  John finished the runway several days early and in fact was asked if they could start sending flights yesterday!  Of course there’s some stuff that can go early, like snowmobiles, solar panels, etc.;  but most of those have to be processed through the formal cargo system because they contain hazardous components,  so it’s hard to rush them.   And we never send out people without their survival gear (tents, food, stoves, clothing, etc) or vice-versa,  so making sure the right parts of our 16,000 lbs of stuff stick together is an important chore.  But it has all come together,  and barring bad weather or unfortunate incidents, the 2018-19 field team will make it into the field about a day or even two earlier than planned (starting mid-day Tuesday US time).  Good work, gang!