Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Taylor Dome - The Arrival

Arrived at Taylor Dome! The polar plateau! Monday, the sixth of November.

Flew on a C-130 and I thankfully mangaged to secure one of the few window seats. A window seat on a C-130 faces inwards and to look out the window one has to crane the neck around and look out of a window about half the size of a civilian plane. Nonetheless, I was not deterred and looked out, taking pictures, the whole 45 minute flight.

Upon arrival, we watched the plane take off, then went about setting up camp. We slept in a "Polar Haven" that was set up for us by the carpenters. The one on the left was the cook haven, on the right was the sleep haven.

Looking around in the -40 degree weather we could see some mountain tops 20 miles away in one direction. Other directions showed only the plateau. But I loved it. Antarctica in the raw. We had all heard the epic reports of really cold temperatures and stong winds and so when I got ready to get off the plane I had all skin totally covered and felt like Darth Vader breathing heavily through many layers of fleece not knowing what really to expect as I stepped onto the plateau and into -40 weather for the first time. I was releaved to find, after a while, that it was bearable and actually quite comfortable if there was not a strong breeze blowing.

Inside the hut:

Our first digging project:

More to come soon!

Back in McMurdo. Heading out to West Antarctic Ice Sheet this upcoming monday for three weeks! Very excited!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Taylor Dome

The time has come, at last, to hit the continent. None of this island stuff. To Taylor Dome, I am headed, for about two weeks. (My scheduled return is the 18th of November.) The project: to find almost three thousand gallons of fuel, left there in 1996 and now under about eight feet of snow. My job: to dig them out once we find them - or, if we can't find them, to dig until we find them.

Taylor Dome is located on the polar plateau. It is about 100 miles north/northwest of McMurdo and is exposed to the elements. A team is there now, preparing the runway, and getting our structure set up so that we can go to work once we get there. The conditions at the Taylor Dome site (elevation 7,890 feet) from a few days ago:

Ambient Temp: -45 F
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Windchill: -100 F
Viz: 50 feet.
Altitude they are experiencing: 8700 Feet

So that is the plan. I got issued a down sleeping bag rated at -50. We plan to sleep in a structure because they say it is too cold to sleep in a tent. Six of us on this mission. One other GA. It is exciting, though Erik, the other GA, and I are a little dissapointed that we weren't the first ones in, but we'll have to make do. I'll report back when I return.

In other news, the dodgeball league started today. I am captain of the team. We are called the "Rockets." We went two and two. I had some pretty good catches and my arm was surprisingly dodge-ball-fit for being off the circuit since sixth grade. All the best!


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Search and Rescue Tryouts

Tried out for the Search and Rescue Team. Its purpose is to train a winter SAR team because the professional mountaineers won't be here to be in the primary role. As a summer person, I only have a chance if not enough winter folks are interested. We'll see. Knots, harnesses, ropes, snow climbing, roped glacier travel, snow anchors, and finally crevasse rescue. It was a fun day. Nice to be up a little higher for a different perspective on the ice shelf. In the second picture, the tiny dots on the ice are where we did Happy Camper School. In the lower left are the two vehicles we took out to the Ice Falls for the training/tryout.

First league soccer match tonight. We won.