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Investigating the polar regions from the inside out

Working in Antarctica requires a set of finely tuned tools: patience, endurance, and optimism. At the mercy of the weather, your plans change with the wind, requiring many layers of alternate strategies. Meetings often revolve around phrases like “what if” and “plan B and C.”

All plans must start somewhere, though, and for us, the first stop is McMurdo Station.
Established in 1956 as a military base, McMurdo Station sits at the tip of the Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island, just off the coast, making it accessible by both aircraft and ship. “Mactown” acts as an operational hub for most U.S. research programs scattered across the continent, requiring almost all personnel and cargo to first pass through McMurdo before transitioning to deep field sites. With more than 100 structures on site, a harbor, and an airport, McMurdo provides scientists with the chance to gather their team and gear, organize flight logistics to camps, and receive training in deep-field safety and survival techniques.

A recent epidemic of “intestinal crud” has put everyone on station in a hand-washing frenzy, with the small station hospital serving up some much needed hydration and rest to those who have been affected. Being such an isolated community, McMurdo wages a constant battle against the influx of germs arriving on passenger planes from New Zealand throughout the summer season.

The POLENET team is trickling in, coming from across the world to prepare for work at McMurdo, Byrd Camp, and Patriot Hills Camp. Here is the latest update from Principal Investigator, Dr. Terry Wilson:

Hi Everyone –

The full ‘early team’ of 15 is on the ice now for just over one week and all goes well. We have advanced valiantly through every training class and planning meeting. One hopeful outcome: a possible new scenario to obtain synoptic weather information from Byrd Camp. Equipment is all staged for the McMurdo-based work, and gear and equipment for Byrd work is pouring in to the cargo system. Two flights, with camp staff and science construction group, made it to Byrd last week, however a major storm pinned them down this week, and no flights, so opening of the camp for science may be a few days late. Helo work from McMurdo has started – completed an upgrade at Mt Coates, were turned back from Brimstone Peak due to weather, and are scheduled to go to Fishtail Point tonight. Due to extended bad weather at Rothera station on the Peninsula, a KBA Twin Otter has remained there instead of reaching McMurdo as planned. This has delayed the start of our fixed-wing work from McMurdo. We are poised for work at any site, with any transport, so things will keep moving ahead over the next week…….

Terry

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