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Tuesday, October 30, 2007: One Month!

Today we landed on the Antarctic continent! I know, we have been in Antarctica for a month, but we have been in and near McMurdo Station, which is on Ross Island, just off the continent. So though McMurdo is technically Antarctica, now that we are at our field camp at New Harbor, we are on the actual continent!

The real Antarctic

All our packing efforts over the last few days resulted in 2500 lbs of stuff, carefully classified into 1006 lbs of Do Not Freeze, 112 lbs of Keep Frozen, 90 lbs of Hazardous, and 1292 lbs of Everything Else. We were so fat that it took 2 helicopter flights to get us and all our gear out here. And that was after we sent the really heavy stuff – fuel, vehicles, sleds, camp gear, etc. on an earlier traverse, where it was driven across the ice in a slow convoy to a nearby staging spot at Marble Point, and then flown the shorter distance from there. The sea ice is so rough that they cannot traverse all the way here!
A Bell 212 helicopter sling loading some of our 2500 lbs of stuff.

We got to the helo hanger at 7:30, weighed ourselves, picked up our helmets and got briefed on how to properly load, ride in, and unload a Bell 212. There is a technician as well as a pilot to help but you still need to know how to be safe. The techs had previously loaded all our gear, and we took off 15 minutes apart.
Unloading the SCINI ROV from the helo at New Harbor Camp.

It is a wonderful view of McMurdo Sound from above. You can see the distinct line where the annual ice starts – where the ice that is less than a year old meets the ice that is several years old, and a less distinct line where the multi-year ice meets the permanent ice shelf. We could see icebergs pinned in the annual ice, and finally, the rim of broken ice on the shore of the continent and our camp, looking very tiny.
The edge of the Dry Valleys and the Antarctic continent.
The red building and 2 snowmachines are part of our camp.

We spent the rest of the day working quite hard in the big gorgeous silence. First we had to unload everything we had packed for the traverse, and make sure it had all actually made it there. About the time we figured out that there were 2 boxes missing, another helo came in with them. We moved all our fuel barrels, eleven 55 gallon drums of diesel, gasoline, premix, and kerosene, onto containment berms. We organized our 444 pounds of food onto shelves. We moved tables and chairs and cots and tents, and dragged around dive gear and ROV parts, and started engines and chipped a road through the pressure ridge of ice just offshore. Bryan even got the GPS base station set up and started surveying to find our dive locations. I made a quick meal of curried seafood and chocolate chip cookies – we have to cook for ourselves out here! – and finally set up a tent for bed at around midnight. Despite the comments about happy campers school, I really enjoy sleeping out on the sea ice, and besides, I was tired enough to sleep anywhere, I think! But it was worth it, we had camp all set up and were ready to start science in the morning!
The "Polar Palace" PolarHaven with some of our fuel and generators and vehicles.

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.