Thursday, September 01, 2011

To the Dark Ice


When the time came to leave Christchurch for the Ice, I was ready.  We had been scheduled to be there for two nights, but had been there for four as weather at McMurdo prevented us from departing.  So this past Monday, it went like this.

0237 We get a call in my hotel room that the check-in time has been delayed for 4 hours.  This is very good news as it means I don’t have to awake at 0300 for a 0400 check in time.  (My roommate was a 65 year old diesel generator mechanic named Barry, most people call him Bear, from Texas…awaiting his first trip to the Ice, though he’d down contract work in Iraq with mortars raining into his compound!  Holy smokes.)
0600 Wake up for a treadmill run to make the legs less ansty on the flight down, followed by hotel continental breakfast.
0730 Board the shuttle bus with all my bags.
0800 Change into my issued ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear and check in my bags.
0920 Briefing for working in Antarctica.
1000 Go through security, then back into the briefing room for an hour as there was an issue with the hydrolics in the plane’s tail.
1120 Start boarding the plane
~1200 Take off for the Ice


~1700 Arrive on the Ice!  (I asked to go into the cockpit was too late – I had been too busy standing in the back looking out the small window of the C-17 so I missed the cockpit runs.)



~1830 Arrive to McMurdo after a 13 mile ride in one of the Deltas.  Not the fastest or most comfortable ride into town.  This is followed by dinner and our arrival briefing by the station manager, the recreation officer, the environmental folks, and on and on.  Only afterwards to we get our sheets, our room key and internet account info and then to our rooms to unpack! 


It was a tiring day with a lot of briefings, sitting and travel! 

I have now done three days of work (and of course, some more trainings, including how to drive a truck down here).  Me and Erin, one of the guys I was a rigger with last year, have been working on a solar installation for the South Pole’s visitor center tent which will be up this year as it’s the 100 year anniversary of Scott and Amundsen (my hero) getting to the pole.  (They expect hundreds of visitors!)   To the pole I’ll get to go in October to set it up! 

Otherwise, I’ve been settling in.  Running on the treadmill as it’s dark before and after work, went to a yoga class last night, and working on getting organized.  It’s been cloudy most of the time, with blowing snow almost all the time, but the temperatures have been relatively mild for this time of year.  7 degrees F or so.  Downright balmy...when the wind is not blowing, which isn't too often! 


Tonight I walked down to Robert Scott’s hut of more than a hundred years ago to look at the evening sky and look back at the station in dark mode.  It is wonderful to see the stars from Antarctica and I hope to see the auroras soon! 


Today we had refresher training on what to do if caught in a storm without a vehicle, which includes how to set up a tent and how to operate a stove…I think I got those now! 

Okay, that’s all for now.  Thanks, as always, for reading and for being interested.  It makes it easier to be so far away when I know people enjoy reading.  Don’t forget to share your stories with me too!  My best to all of you!

My address for anyone inclined:

Ben Urmston, RPSC
McMurdo Station
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035


  1. cool plane! love the posts!

  2. "problems with the plane's hydraulics"?! No thank you. Mommy I want to go home. You the man Benny!!

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