The caps lock might appear to be overkill, but it does not express how stoked we all are to finally be in McMurdo! As a first timer, I think I might have pulled a muscle from smiling so hard.
It started with a 4:30am wakeup to get to the Antarctic Terminal, get outfitted, and get our bags checked. We flew on a military plane called a C-17, which was a cool experience in and of itself. I got to visit the cockpit to meet the pilots and ask questions – and enjoy the views! Turns out military planes have a lot fewer passenger windows..
Good weather in McMurdo meant we didn’t have to ‘boomerang’. That’s the term for when storms prohibit a safe landing, so the plane turns around and heads back to Christchurch. That’s no small thing when you’re carrying 126 passengers on a 6 hour flight to Antarctica. Luckily we had a beautiful, clear day.
Stepping off the plane is a surreal experience. You keep your earplugs on, to protect from plane noise while you disembark. Between that, your Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, and sunglasses you certainly feel sensory deprivation. But simultaneously, it is a complete sensory overload. Bright skies, bright ice, people milling around, the whirr of the engines, Mount Erebus in the distance, the cold air in your nose, the nice airforce man asking me to please keep moving and stop taking pictures. It was incredible.
Now we’re getting down to business with science, plus a little more training. While Icefin is being rebuilt and tested, I’ve been getting RogueSeis ready. I’m making use of the walk-in freezer, the irony of which is not lost on me on a continent covered in ice, to do a test installation of a prototype of the box we’ll put our seismometer in. It’s basically a plastic box with a spike mounted on the bottom, that I made quickly today in the science shop, which we will freeze into ice using a drill and some water. Next step will be to ensure that we can safely extract the entire box using hot water. It’s pretty cool to be down here with all of the support and facilities, so we’re able to work through ideas quickly and get to testing them out.
If all goes well, we’ll have the little fellow up and running in a couple of days!