Thursday, December 23, 2010

CTAM: Central Trans-Antarctic Mountains

CTAM Camp from above!

I spent last week at the CTAM camp. CTAM stands for Central Trans-Antarctic Mountains. It is a beautiful location with mountains all around, about an hour and half away from McMurdo on an LC-130. It is basically one of the most beautiful airports in the world, with two Bell 212 Helicopters, and a Twin Otter airplane all stationed there. During the day, it is a constant influx and outflux of aircraft and between the three aircraft, LC-130 flights in and out during the week, McMurdo communications and field party groups originating from CTAM, there is lots of traffic on the VHF radios, the HF radios and the sat phones.

The two Bell 212 helicopters. I love helicopters!

We had beautiful weather the entire week and I skied almost every day on the aircraft ski-way. I would put on my skate skiing boots in the morning and ski around camp from tent to tent as a faster way to get around, all thanks to my friend Jay's excellent grooming.

Tent City. Because the sun never sets, tents become greenhouses often 65 degrees F!

My first duty was to take the HF tower down and reconfigure the antenna to reduce the noise that was coming from generator. We ended up moving it farther away from camp and changing the antenna type, which seemed to do the trick.

My shadow form up on the tower.


Once the tower was done and the HF (High Frequency - long range) antennas was figured out, it was time to go flying! We had two repeaters to put up (one to communicate with the aircraft and the other to communicate with field camps. So out to the mountains we went!

Mt. Falla, where we put up a relay to retransmit a signal to and from a repeater.

The relay and helo on the top of Mt. Falla. -25C above 11,000 feet!

The equipment had good enough lines of sight so that towers weren't necessary, just little tripods that could see into the valley. It was fun to be on a mountain top, in the cold and in the relatively thin air. To get to the far peak we needed the repeaters on (Mt. Kinsey), we had to fly over the Beardmore Glacier. This is the route Robert Scott took to get to the south pole only to arrive and find Amundsen's abandoned tent there. It was pretty neat to fly over and imagine sledges, dogs, ponies and men down below finding their route across the glacier 100 years ago.

The Beardmore Glacier, used by Scott to get to the Pole in 1912.

The mountains near camp.

Saturday night festivities: golf lessons...(and "Golf Team" photos.)

For our one day off, we got to explore, driving a few snow mobiles to the local hill, going for a hike with some geologists. We found petrified wood and traces of old forrests from long ago when Antarctica was not so far south. Pretty wild to see wood fibers in the rocks on this slope. Just as wonderful was the views. The Trans-Antarctic Mountains are endlessly stunning.

Looking for the best site to put the repeater...Mt. Kinsey.


  1. In case no one has said this to you recently: Benny, you are one HOT SHIT! I LOVE the pic of your shadow on the tower, and the joy on your face in the Flying photo! So glad you are having such a great time! Merry Christmas, my dear one, and a Happy and Adventurous 2011! All my love, xoxolid