Monday, February 20, 2012

The Observation Tube

At the beginning of the season, when it is a lot colder here, the ice closest to land is pretty thick and solid for the most part. This year they were able to instal the Observation tube for everyone one to use. It is this long tube that goes down through 6-8 feet of ice and into the water. Connected to the bottom is a little room that barely fits one person. Its made of all windows so you can look in every direction under the water. As you will see in the first picture, they shovel the snow off of the ice and it allows the sun to shine through and lite the water up.

I thought this would be a lot of fun. Dawn went first and had a blast. While she was down there we could hear seals making noises and it would echo up through the tube. She never saw one, but it was really cool to hear the sounds. Then it was my turn. The tube was a little snug to start, and the steps were off set from eachother and far enough apart that you really had to bend your knees to get to them, not so easy in a tiny tube. Once you get to the little room at the bottom, the steps dissappear and there is just this little rope ladder with wooden steps, that swings when you step on it!

Ok, whew! I finally made it to the bottom and looked out into the water. It was dark and murkey and I couldnt see anything at first. As my eyes began to adjust, I could see where the land was by the shore and how quickly it declined into nothingness below me. Thats when I realized that I didnt want to be in this tiny little tube under 8 feet of ice with only one tiny way out. That anything could come swimming at me at any moment and scare the crap out of me. I snapped a few shots and pretended to be having fun and started to climb back up. Again, not the easiest thing, that darn swinging ladder made it near impossible for me to get my bent knee and then my foot on that first metal step of the tube. I ended up doing a pathetic half pull-up before I found the step. And then it was a slow tight climb back to the top. I think in the end, I was in there for less that 5 minutes.

One for the books, but not something that I would like to do again.
On to the next adventure!

-Autumn :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pegasus Crash Site

Ok, I have been holding out on making this post because I don't have all of the accurate history of what really happened. But alas, the pictures are pretty cool and I did have a lot of fun. So, here is the Autumn version of Pegasus Crash Site:
(Please note that the following story is only about 5%-ish accurate and mostly made up)
Back in the 1970's a big plane was on its way to Antarctica to drop off some seals that had been born in captivity and were ready to live in the wild. Mid flight the weather took a turn for the worse and they got caught in a snow storm. They couldn't see anything and had no idea where they were going. They flew around for so long that they started running low on fuel. The seal tranquilizers were wearing off so they couldn't turn around and fly the whole way back to New Zealand. They decided to make a blind landing and hope for the best. They found the ground, but not before the plane caught a gust of wind and tilted them sideways ripping one of the wings completely off. This woke the seals and they started rolling about. As the plane crashed onto the Ice shelf it slid to a stop just before falling into a huge crack. The weight of the seals rolling around caused the plane to tilt toward to open hole left by the wing that had been ripped off and the seals fell right into the big crack reaching the water in record time.
Their mission had been completed successfully!
The good people of McMurdo drove out to the site and rescued the men before frostbite set in and everyone lived happily ever after. The End.

The plane now sits near our Airfield and people are allowed to visit the site and climb around. Over the years it has become more and more buried by snow drifts, but it is still an amazing site to see a plane crash in Antarctica.

Enjoy the photos!

If anyone would like the real story of what happened to this plane, I can ask around and get the real story for you.

Til Next Time,
Autumn :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Camper!

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend a Snow Survival Course often referred to as Happy Camper. The word "Camper" in the nickname is pretty spot on since you do spend the night outside camping on the sea ice. The word "Happy" however can be somewhat confusing depending on who you ask. I think some people really do have a lot of fun out there (myself being one of them) and others are just miserable and don't want to talk about it.
So here's the quick breakdown: Its 2 days 1 night out on the Sea Ice learning how to survive on your own with limited resources. They teach you how to pitch a tent, build a snow wall, make a "kitchen", sleep in a snow trench, and strategies on how to find someone in a whiteout.
It was a lot of work, but I had so much fun. It was great to get out of the office, and out of town at that, and be outside on a pretty nice day experiencing the real Antarctica.

First thing we did was grab our supplies, load then onto some sleds, and pull them out to our site about 1/4 mile away. Then it was time to set up the tents

Then we learned how to saw snow bricks to make a wall. This helps break the wind from hitting your tent, and can keep you a lot warmer.

(If you notice in the picture above, the bathroom is that tiny black box on the left. So we had Pee bottles we could use instead. Pee bottles are not easy for women. I made the trek to the bathroom 3 times over the course of our stay.)

Next task was to set up a kitchen so we could start melting ice for our dinner.
At one point we had 7 people shoveling out the kitchen and not one person got hit with a shovel or thew snow in someone elses space. I thought this was pretty amazing and had to stop and take a picture. You cant plan something like that, talk about teamwork.

We were then shown how to build a snow trench. This would come in handy in an extreme survival situation. You can dig down into the snow and build yourself a little cave. This keeps you out of the wind and can be pretty warm if you can get the top covered properly.
Here is some of the team starting on their trenches.

And about how big it should be when you are done.
About 6 feet long and 4-5 feet deep

I opted to sleep in a tent since I was so exhausted and didn't want to keep digging. The wind started to pick up around 8pm and things started getting really cold. 8 out of 10 people built a trench. By morning, only 3 had slept in them through the entire night. The 50mph winds got so bad that we ended up with huge drifts around our tents in the morning. This drift was about 2 feet tall. Alex had to kick her way out of the tent.

This is whats left of an abandoned trench. There used to be stairs but the wind blew them out and drifted a bunch of snow in there.

After we packed everything up, we headed back to the "classroom" (a building in the middle of nowhere.)
We covered other survival skills and how to use HAM radios.
Then it was time for 'Bucket Heads' One of the more famous Happy Camper moments. Everyone puts buckets on their heads to simulate what it would be like in a whiteout. You then have to navigate yourself around outside and attempt to find someone who has gone missing. It looks extremely silly, but is actually very educational and gives an idea of how dangerous it can be to go outside in extreme conditions.

By the end of day 2 I was exhausted and ready for a soft bed. I had so much fun and learned a lot about survival out in the cold. I met a few new people and ended up with a great group that worked together. Definitely one of the highlights of my Season.

Now where are those darn Penguins!!!!

Autumn :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

South Pole Traverse

As I continue to collect photos of my adventures down here, I also get the chance to see pictures and videos of the adventures that other people down here get to experience. I came across this video today of the South Pole Traverse from last year. The SPT is a group of people that load up a bunch of fuel and drive across Antactica from McMurdo to our South Pole station. They pull all of the fuel and housing and necessities on these sledded platforms attached to these huge tractors. The tractors pull everything at about 7mph so it takes about 1 month to get there.
Why do they do this? Well, the fuel is used to pretty much run the South Pole station and it is much cheaper to drive the fuel there than it is to fly it there in a tiny plane and take multiple trips. So once a year, they load up and deliver the Fuel to the South Pole. This years crew left at the beginnign of November and got the the Pole on December 3rd. They have since left and headed to a field camp and will then head back to Mcmurdo.
Enjoy the Video, its a real Antarctic experience what these people are doing.

2 Months Left!

Autumn :)