Today is Thanksgiving at McMurdo station. Almost everyone is on holiday today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday). This is a special because most people here  normally work 6 days a week, so it’s the first real ‘holiday’ of the season. There are a series of thanksgiving meals as well as a 5km race. Here is a video of the start. The guy at the front wearing the antlers is Bryan – he led the first half of the race before being overtaken. The team put in a good effort!

Bryan and Graham before the race

Bryan, Jo (complete with cow costume) and Graham before the race.

Team kiwi before the race (The New Zealanders have a station over the hill from McMurdo – Scott Base).

Kiwis practicing their starts (whilst keeping hydrated)

Turkey race marshals arrive

Runners at the start line – in front of the McMurdo chapel, with the Ross Iceshelf and Mt.Discovery in the background

 Gorilla coming to the finish line

Graham crossing the finish line

Bryan coming into the finish

Jo crossing the finish line


Here is a video and a few pictures of McMurdo station. You might want to turn the sound up to get the full effect of the wind in Bryan’s video…


Happy Campers!

Video from our training trip

The team spent the past two days preparing to go into the field. We had a series of training classes and spent one and a half days out on the ice shelf going over survival techniques, use of tents, snow shelters, stoves, navigation, helicopter safety and use of our antarctic clothing. The training takes place on the Ross ice shelf, a permanent ice sheet on the edge of Ross Island about 2 miles away from McMurdo base.

We did the training with a group of 20 other people, most of whom are scientists working on various geology, geophysics and biology projects. We also had a film crew, a helicopter pilot and a diver on the course too. The course was lead by two field experts, Susan and Corey, experienced mountaineers who train all the scientists and workers who will head away from base out into the field.

Today and over the next couple of days the team has to prepare all the gear, food, radios, snowmobiles as well as co-ordinate helicopter and plane schedules. At the moment the team is scheduled to fly out into the field on Tuesday, but the weather hasn’t been that good for flying recently so there is a it of a backlog. More on that in a day or two.

Here are a few pictures from our training course:

To get to the ice shelf we rode in a large truck called a Delta. Here Kat (a Hagglunds driver from Christchurch) gives everyone a briefing. 

Everyone squashed inside the Delta. 

After a bumpy 30min ride we arrived on the ice shelf to start our overnight training course.

The team gathers together to walk to happy camper school. The camp is on the Ross ice shelf. This iceshelf formed several millions of years ago when ice and glaciers accumulated in the mountains of Antarctica. After enough ice had accumulated it began to move down slope towards the edge of the continent. As more ice was added the ice shelf grew into what we see today – a piece of flat ice up to 1km thick and the size of France!

Off to Happy Camper!

Once at the camp site we put all our gear in a cargo line, so we know where everything is and so none of it blows away.

 Instructor Corey showing the team how to build a snow wall. The snow on the iceshelf is very dry and compact so it is excellent for building snow shelters and walls.

 Corey showing us how to build a snow wall.

After we built a snow wall we put up our tents and built a variety of other emergency snow shelters.

Bryan also built an igloo.

Bryan and John building an Igloo

Our campsite for the evening

A photo of our campsite taken at about 10.30pm – still perfectly sunny and bright – no nighttime darkness here!

Because the weather in Antarctica can very quickly turn from nice and sunny to cold with very low visibility, all roads and paths are flagged. Here, the route to our bathrooms are flagged so people can find their way if the weather turns bad. 

Looking back towards Scott Base and McMurdo with the TransAntarctic mountains in the background.

We also made a variety of other snow shelters. This trench is constructed by digging a long narrow hole in the snow and digging a bench into the side of it for a sleeping platform. A snowmobile sled is used for a roof to keep the wind and snow out.

After our cosy night in our tents we headed back to McMurdo to begin packing our gear to head into the field. We’ll post a few more photos soon of the base and all of the gear we will take into the field.

A 1970’s era tracked vehicle driving around McMurdo

McMurdo! Update: Here’s a quick video of our arrival at McMurdo airfield.

We made it! After an early morning wake up call (4am) the team assembled in the Antarctic passenger terminal at Christchurch International Airport. We checked all our bags in just like a normal airline flight. Because the weather in Antarctica can be very cold, we had to dress in our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear on the plane. Including gloves, hat, coats and thick boots. We traveled to McMurdo on a C-17 Globemaster military jet. Although it isn’t the most comfortable ride, The flight only took about 5 hours. Some of us were also lucky enough to be able to go up to the cockpit and see the fantastic views. We landed on the sea ice runway at McMurdo around 1pm and made our way over the frozen Ross sea for 2 miles to reach McMurdo station. We spent the afternoon arranging our gear for our first training session. Tomorrow we are heading out to the ice shelf to brush up on our survival skills, practice pitching tents and getting familiar with our cold weather clothing.

We’ll add some more photos and information about McMurdo station over the next couple of days. In the meantime, here are a few photos of our trip south.

Jo and Graham entering the terminal

The passenger terminal. Everyone is waiting around for our departure. The front rows were reserved for the King of Malaysia and his entourage. They are heading down to Scott Base with the New Zealand program

Jo, Graham and Bryan waiting for their plane

Everyone gets issued the same extra warm red down jacket. The only way to tell whose is whose is to label them on the front

Here is our ride, a C-17 Globemaster. A wet and windy morning in Christchruch…

The inside of the C-17 is enormous. We shared the plane with some large containers and a lot of cargo. 

View from the cockpit

View from the cockpit out on the Ross Sea in northern Victoria Land. The flight takes about 5 hrs from Christchurch and this photo was taken with about an hour to go.
Seating in the C-17. People either sit on the sides of the plane or on airline seats attached to cargo pallets.

TransAntarctic Mountains from one of only two windows in the entire plane!

We landed on the sea ice runway about 2 miles from McMurdo station. When we landed the temperature was about -12C with a 10knot breeze. Certainly a little colder than Santa Barbara or Christchurch!

Bryan in front of our C-17 looking happy to have made it to Antarctica! 

 Looking from the runway toward McMurdo. The base is to the left of the pointy hill (Observation Hill) in the center of the photo

Graham enjoying a frosty in the McMurdo dining hall.

More to come from McMurdo and surrounds soon!