Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting set up at McMurdo

McMurdo Station is located on Ross Island, about 60-70 miles from mainland Antarctica. It feels like a small town, with lots of buildings where people work, live, and play. But, unlike most towns, the buildings are all very industrial-looking. Most of them are warehouses with no windows to protect them from the strong winds and storms common in Antarctica.
Ross Island is surrounded by water, but the top layer of the water is frozen. As the summer progresses, the sea ice melts, causing the open ocean to come closer to McMurdo Station. But right now, the open sea is still quite a ways away to the North.

Across the sea ice from McMurdo to the west are the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. The mountains make up the edge of mainland Antarctica. The Dry Valleys where we will be doing our research are in those mountains. You can see them in the distance across the sea ice from McMurdo:

We're the first from our group to arrive in McMurdo. Next week, most of the rest of our group will arrive. So, Katie and I have just a few more quiet days before everyone else shows up and it starts to get busy!

During our first few days here in McMurdo, Katie and I have been busy getting set up for the next two months' work. This includes stocking our laboratory with all the items we'll need for our science, gathering our camping gear for the field, and gathering the equipment we'll need for our field work.
So, we've been spending a lot of time in the lab since we've been here. Here is a quick "tour" of the lab we're setting up, with a look at the nice view we have outside our window!

We also attend a lot of different training courses to learn about safety and other protocols that we need to know around McMurdo and the field. Since this is Katie's first year, she gets to go to Snow School tomorrow. Snow School is a fun 2-day class that includes a camping trip out on the sea ice. At Snow School, the Happy Campers learn about important Antarctic safety and other procedures.