Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Trip of a Lifetime

When I took this job as a computer tech for the scientists, I didn't think I'd get to travel outside of a single boondoggle (navy term for morale trips during your work day) and the same recreation trips I had done in past seasons. I figured that, just like the computer shop for town, the communications guys would take care of any field work and the grantees would come in from the field to have us service their equipment. So I was very surprised to learn on my second day back, that I was being sent to snow survival school two days later so that I fly out for a field camp put in eight days after being back on the ice!!!!

For the put in, I would be installing the computers at Lake Hoare in the Dry Valleys (77.6233S, 162.905E). All of my trips have been around Ross Island or the sea ice, so I was really excited to finally cross the 60 miles over the sound to the mainland. The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest expanse of ice-free ground in Antarctica. The area receives an average precipitation of less than 100mm and it is extremely windy which keeps the area from collecting snow and ice. So few visitors get to the Dry Valleys that they have have remained a mostly pristine environment and have retained their wilderness quality. To quote my friend Betty and make her day, the Dry Valleys are "the closest place on earth to the conditions we imagine might exist on Mars . . . the photos never really do the region justice . . . What's so special about brown rocky mountain peaks and barren valleys? Nothing, except when they're in Antarctica (98% covered by ice) and full of microscopic living organisms (the only ones on the continent!)."

Maps of Ross Island, McMurdo Sound, and the Dry Valleys. The one on the left highlights the Taylor Valley where I went.

The original plan was that I would fly out on Friday, install two computers, test them overnight, and fly out on Saturday. It was a short trip, but I was more than happy to do it for a chance to see the Dry Valleys. Due to some weather delays, my helicopter ride out was pushed to Saturday and since we don't fly on Sunday, I'd be staying until Monday!!!

Here is a time lapse of my flight out:

Narrative of flight:
0:00 Taking off from the helipad at McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica
0:25 Looking west while flying north over McMurdo Sound
1:10 The Royal Society mountain range
2:15 Ferrar Glacier
2:55 Crossing the Kukri Hills
3:48 Passing over the start of Andrew's Ridge (reference for future blog)
4:00 Lake Hoare with the Seuss Glacier at the far end sliding in from the right
4:10 Lake Hoare Camp with the calved-end of the Canada Glacier in the background

After I arrived at the field camp, I got to work installing the computers and then settled in. I just had to give the computers a solid run through before I left on Monday to ensure they were good to go for the season. When I finished up and was tucking into for the evening, I caught this bit of color over Lake Hoare as the sun was getting ready to set somewhere behind those mountains.

Lake Hoare.


  1. Incredible video. My day has been made :p

  2. That's fantastic Brody! Great idea, the helo-timelapse. Congrats on hitting the mainland, though I still consider Ross Island part of Antarctica. And not just because I'm still on an island, I swear!

  3. Brian,
    You are preaching to the choir. I've always said Ross Island was part of the continent, just not the mainland. You should take a zodiac over!! I think you are on an island again, yeah?