Entering McMurdo is like entering a modern mining town: lots of exposed rock and unpaved streets, above ground utilities and bare-bones architecture. Utilitarian. From the airport we were taken to a briefing room, introduced to our science coordinators, and given our shcedules. Since I am new to McMurdo, I am scheduled for Snow Survival Training, also known as Happy Camp. That will be tomorrow morning. I will also receive training in sea ice travel, as well as how to operate a snowmobile and a pisten bully. All sounds interesting to me, so there should be some good posts in the next few days - stay tuned!
After our briefing I picked up linens from the town laundry and checked into the dorm. We are conveniently located in the same building as the dining hall. The downside of this is you can usually smell the tater tots long before they hit the heat lamps. Technically we are not supposed to go into the Crary Lab until we have been certified, so for lack of anything else to do, I grabbed my skis and went out for a short trip on the sea ice. At this time of year the sun never sets, so even though it was almost ten in the evening, it didn't seem much different than ten in the morning. I skied out on the ice and over towards neighboring Scott Base. The snow on the surface of the sea ice is lightly packed and excellent for cross-country skiing. Along the way to Scott Base was an enormous pressure ridge formed where two plates of sea ice collided. Scale is difficult to see in the above picture, but that ice berm is close to 40 feet tall, and in the background of the photo you can see the snow-covered slopes of the Erebus Volcano.
The pressure ridge creates gaps in the sea ice, andit is through these holes in the sea ice that many of Antarctica's air breathing animals access the surface. Not far from the base I ran into a Weddell Seal sunning on the ice. It probably helps to have a dark fur coat and a thick layer of blubber! The Weddell seal seemed quite happy though, and we both went on our respective ways. I got to Scott Base just around 11 PM, and realizing I had a tight schedule for the next day, only stayed long enough to grab a photograph and head back to home. Talk to everyone after Happy Camp!