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Investigating the polar regions from the inside out

Current Location: Byrd Camp, West Antarctica
Current Weather: -15º C. Winds at 11 knots.

Christmas decorations are often tucked away behind cellar doors. I remember digging out the tree, the ornaments, the lights-- a responsibility that was inevitably passed on to me based on the fact that I was small enough to shuffle around the cramped space.

Here at Byrd Camp, holiday decorations transpire not from dark, shallow storage rooms but from the creative energy that pulses through camp. A Christmas tree is formed out of metal banding and bamboo tent stakes. Ornaments are cut out from empty Coca-cola cans, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, duct tape, and whatever other supplies can be foraged.

Last week, we had the unprecedented! Three planes were at our disposal- two Twin Otters and a Basler. The elusive Basler flies around the continent and is much coveted by science groups for its range and cargo capacity. We were incredibly fortunate to have it based at Byrd for a whole week. There were days when weather was open at three of our sites and we scrambled to split our team, our tools, and our gear into three successful missions per day.

Because of this impressive availability of planes and a few days of good weather, we’ve been able to reach a number of sites, including a brand new installation at Bennett Nunatak. Also on our list were Kohler Glacier, Clark Mountains, Mount Carbone, Siple Dome (Thanks Paul Winberry!), Iggy Ridge (Thanks Dylan Taylor!), Fallone Nunataks, Mount Howe and 8 sites that lay across the seismic transect.

Dec_map

To explore an interactive version of this map, visit http://polenet.org/livefeed

The weather continues to warm up as the summer season progresses, with temperatures staying in the negative teens (Celsius). As the heat continues to be trapped within my sleep tent walls, whatever is not covered by my sleeping bag or pile of clothes gets melted, and I wind up with a ledge to sleep on, surrounded by an expanding hole underneath the floor. Eric Kendrick’s thermometer read 87º F inside of his tent a couple of days ago when he woke up so over-heated he couldn’t get back to sleep! It’s certainly quite a different story than earlier in the season when a hot water bottle was your only hope for staying warm enough!

We were sad to say goodbye to eleven of our team members last week as they left camp on an LC-130 Hercules. Some headed back to McMurdo to catch a flight to Union Glacier camp, which sits about 690 km grid north or due east of Byrd Camp. POLENET has 6 sites to be reached from Union Glacier. We’re excited to see what they can accomplish before they leave on the 4th of January!
Alas, all of our planes have left us today to head back to McMurdo for maintenance. The upcoming Christmas weekend is giving us a chance to catch up on planning, organize the overflowing piles of paper and gear that have taken over our tables, and prepare for the second half of our season. It’s also a time to connect with everyone here around camp, eat good food (freshies arrived today!), share stories, go sledding on the berm, and take a breath to appreciate where we are. We wish all of you happy holidays!

-megan

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