Saturday, November 17, 2012

Back to NYC!

Today, I take my last Antarctic flight back to Christchurch. I leave in about an hour in a C-17 cargo plane and will arrive in NZ around 11 PM to return my ECW's, get my luggage, and get to a hotel for what is essentially a nap and I'll head back to the airport bright and early for a 7 am flight to Sydney, Australia then LA then NYC (a total of 28 hours in airplanes). It will be great to be home with Josh!

I've learned a ton during my time here and have stayed warm and incredibly busy. I've made some good memories with some great friends, but I'm very ready to get home. I've missed night time, scents, plants, my home, my love, my Ella.

Goodbye, Antarctica! Thanks for a wonderful experience, inspiration, and memories.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Made it to the South Pole!

I'm skipping posting order for this one : SOUTH POLE!

After a 3 hour flight on a LC-130, we landed at the South Pole US Station. It's a very nice facility that houses around 150 people, fewer over the winter. We arrived around 11am and were given a wonderful tour around the main building, then took snowmachines out to the outlying science buildings to look around and ask lots of questions. Snowmachines plus windchill made the day even colder! Yesterday's temperature was -35*F with 15 knots of wind, making the windchill -65*F!!!!! The South Pole is also 10,500 ft. above sea level, and I definitely felt the exhaustion instantly.

The Herc LC-130 we flew to Pole.

Inside the LC-130.

90* South!

The Ceremonial South Pole.

Our empty LC-130 on the way back to McMurdo.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Few Days at Cape Bird

October 31 - November 2

I was fortunate enough to be able to stay out at New Zealand Antarctica's field camp at Cape Bird for a couple of nights. It was nice to have a few nights outside of McMurdo, complete with a full kitchen for home-cooked meals. We were also lucky to have wonderful weather the whole time we were there, which allowed us lots of time to get out and explore the area.

After a hot unload off the helo - meaning the helo stayed on while we unload our gear - we hauled all of our gear and luggage up a huge hill and into our temporary home, quite a trek. Once we unpacked and got everything sorted, we jumped into our first adventure of recording audio of the Adelie Penguin colony making their nests at Cape Bird.

Adelie's are quite interesting penguins. Not that I have very much penguin-watching experience, but they seem to be a bit more nervous, intentional, and generally more active than the Emperors we saw at Cape Crozier. Most of the penguins that were at Cape Bird were male penguins who arrive a few days earlier than the females so they can begin building their nests to impress their potential mates. The nests building was so interesting to watch! Each male will take a little stroll to find nearby stones and rocks, each precisely selected and laid in a perfect location within the penguin's nest, on and on, until they feel that the nest is satisfactory in size. Occasionally, though, we witnessed a little rock thievery action while one penguin was off searching for a new nest stone, his nearby neighbor decided that he'd rather not go far from home and actually stole a rock or two from the nest next door. Often this went unnoticed, but we definitely also saw some brave rock stealing where a penguin would blatantly take a stone from his neighbors nest whether he was in the nest or not - it didn't end well for the thief, because they are very protective of their territories and will fight by biting, chasing, or hitting one another with their flippers.

Aside from nest building, we also watched the males practice their mating calls, saw a few romantic relationships of couples mating to make eggs, and even saw a couple of large groups of (what we thought were) females coming in from the open water to find their mates. I could have spent days watching these penguins, it's just so entertaining! There were thousands of them, each with its own personality and quirks, each looking for a mate to procreate.

Aside from our penguin-watching, photographing, and audio recording, we also took a walk over to one of the most beautiful glaciers I've ever seen. It was full of icicles, stripes, texture and color variations. We also explored the sea ice edge that was loaded with huge chunks of broken-off ice. It looked like a film set - a maze of beautiful huge translucent-blue buildings on a far out planet!

It was a great trip! Here are some photos from Cape Bird.

Penguin tracks.

Some penguins made nests closer to the water edge, where
others deicded to make nests all the way up i

The birds with their beaks up and arms out are showing
off their mating calls.

Finding rocks, mating calls, and resting on a nest.
Lots of penguins near the glacier.

This glacier was huge!

I couldn't get enough of the textures.

Sea ice.

Oh, also, here are a couple of photos of the field camp (large building) and the outhouse (small building). And that hill really is much steeper than it looks in the photos! Going up and down it a dozen times a day was a serious workout!

Lars, Johannes, me, Diane, Tom, Tim

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Scott Base Pressure Ridges

On October 30, we went on a photo adventure out to Scott Base to photograph the nearby Pressure Ridges. Pressure Ridges are areas that sea ice meets the ice shelf with a lot of tidal pressure, causing some ice formations to rise. They're full of intricate shapes, both small and large, and are fun to walk through - kind of like a maze.

Also, are you catching on to the color scheme here? White, blue, and brown. Aside from Blood Falls, that's about it! The sun is always shining and it's pretty intense light, which makes for some lovely deep blue shadows, but I'd love to come across some flowers and trees right about now!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Blood Falls, Ice Falls, and Sand Dunes

On October 29, we went on a helo ride to Blood Falls, Ice Falls, and the Sand Dunes - each was a beautiful and unique place!

Blood Falls is located in the Taylor Valley, where a flow of iron-oxide rich saltwater within the Taylor Glacier falls over the currently-frozen Lake Bonney. While we were there, the water was not flowing, but is still stained a wonderful golden-orange color. It's a beautiful contrast against the turquoise-blue frozen water of Lake Bonney.

Later, we flew over to Victoria Valley to photograph the Victoria Upper Glacier Ice Falls from the air. The glacial ice is a soft milky-pale-blue that flows over a mountain range that is striped like an oreo. On our way there, we also flew nearby some wild ventifact-filled mountain ridges and other ranges with many volcanic and coal stripe variations. Quite simply, a stunning helo ride!

Finally we made our way to the Sand Dunes. To me, this area looked like Mars! The sand was super fine and beautifully wind-blown into dunes with some ice-crystal formations on them. I enjoyed walking along and exploring a vast variety of striations, lines, and designs.

It was indeed a beautiful day out in the Dry Valleys!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Having an Incredible Time!

Sorry for such a delay in posting... we've been very much non-stop for the past couple of weeks. I've experienced a lot of new things, seen many incredible sites, and have been on several wonderful adventures!

Here's my quick list of travels and sites since my last update :
October 26 : Blood Falls helo ride
October 27 : Razorback Mountain with a seal science group & McMurdo Halloween party!
October 29 : Blood Falls in Taylor Valley and Sand Dunes in Victoria Valley
October 30 : Scott Base Pressure Ridges
October 31 - November 2 : Cape Bird
November 3 : Cape Evans, Scott's Hut, and Ice Cave on the sea ice

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some aerial landscape photos from the Helo

Just wanted to share a couple of my favorite aerial photos I was able to take from the Helo during our Wright Valley trip to Lake Vanda and Bull Pass.

I still can't get over the scale down here.  Also, this is one
of the few areas I've encountered that isn't only blue and white.

A view of glacial water and sea ice.