Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

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Arrival In Antarctica: 2014, my first bipolar year

Arriving in Antarctica is always amazing. This is my third time touching down on the continent, and I gladly take the same photos every time. Just like I never tire of looking out at Mt. Rainier, looking up at Mt. Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world, is always a treat.
aia_1I arrived on New Year’s Eve, making 2014 the first year that I had been both above the arctic circle and below the Antarctic circle in the same year. One more day of a flight delay and I wouldn’t have made it.

Landing in Antarctica feels other-worldly as you are dressed in ECW and step off the plane onto snow. But the beautiful weather – just below freezing with little wind – made if feel like an après-ski afternoon on a Spring ski day.

Many of the vehicles don’t look that different.aia_2

But some remind you of the snow-dominated environment you will be working in.

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To my surprise, we loaded onto Ivan the Terra Bus, which I thought had been retired.  This is Ivan when Jessie was here.

Ice Transportation

And we bounced our way for 45 minutes to McMurdo station on a combination of snow and dirt roads. It was good to be back in McMurdo, but I hoped my stay would be short and I would get to South Pole the next day.

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What to wear?

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Deciding what clothes to bring with you to Antarctica is the biggest challenge in packing. The US Antarctic Program provides all of the essential layers for survival, but not necessarily comfort. So that means bringing down a lot of clothes of your own – but fortunately, the really, really warm gear, called ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear is supplied by the USAP.

 

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The previous photo is of all the warm clothes I am bringing. In general, the USAP clothing is on the left and my own clothing in on the right. I will be working in -25˚C (-15˚F) conditions. We have a warming hut at the drill sites, but most of the time we will be in the cold. So I have a lot of clothes with me. Exactly what I will wear is still undecided. At the WAIS Divide drill site, my typical choice of clothing was:

  • Two Pairs wool socks
  • Boot liners
  • FDX boots (the big blue ones
  • Lightweight long underwear bottoms
  • Heavyweight long underwear bottoms
  • Fleece pants
  • Carhart bibs
  • Lightweight long underwear top
  • Heavyweight long underwear top
  • Fleece jacket
  • Big Red
  • Neck gator
  • Two ski hats
  • Glove liners
  • Work gloves

So as you can see in the pile, I have a couple sets of everything. Things are a little more complicated this year as the drilling fluid being used is smellier. So I will be changing my outer layers before heading back to South Pole station. You might notice that I also have what looks like regular ski clothing on the far right. I’m bringing these so I have clothes to exercise in outside. Not sure if I’ll be able to too, but I’d rather have the option than not.

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In the last photo, I have my station clothes. Since WAIS Divide wasn’t a full station, I’m not quite sure what I will be wearing inside. But I have some normal clothes as well as a pair of workout clothes – I hear there is a gym at South Pole.

In all, it’s about 75 pounds of clothing. I’m sure I’ve brought some clothes that I won’t use, and wish I had brought something I didn’t. But as you can see, I should have enough warm layers not to freeze.

You can see current weather and forecasts for South Pole Station here.

Find more about Weather in Amundsen-Scott, AA
Click for weather forecast

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, New Zealand is the logistical hub for McMurdo station in Antarctica. Jessie and I were last in Christchurch in February of 2011, just before the major Christchurch earthquake. In fact, Jessie was in the air between Christchurch and Auckland when the earthquake struck. The earthquake caused lots of damage, particularly to the bigger buildings in the center of town.  You can see some images before the large earthquake in a prior post.

Yesterday, I walked the couple of miles from my hotel to the center of town. I noticed more construction than usual on my walk in, but nothing striking. I then went to the botanical gardens, which had the same lovely feel as before. Adrian’s olinguito enjoyed the gardens quite a bit.

After the botanical gardens, I walked into the city. I headed to Cathedral Square, the heart of Christchurch, knowing that the Cathedral had suffered some significant damage. Indeed it had, with one end more or less gone.

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For comparison from 2011:

Cathedral

More striking were the large buildings still fenced off. The signs of the businesses still in sight chc_4But most striking, was simply the lack of buildings at all. This photo is looking up the main street from Cathedral Square.

chc_5The city center was simply nothing like what I had seen nearly 4 years ago. It was disorienting – landmarks no longer existed. They had been torn down. The river was still the same, but without the restaurants, shops, and buildings I didn’t really know where I was in the city.

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There is a lot of building activity and I’m sure Christchurch will emerge from this with a new downtown core. I look forward to seeing the changes in the coming years.

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We are back!

 

Get ready for the next Antarctic Adventure! T.J. is heading back to the ice next week and we will be providing regular updates and photos. There have been a lot of changes since we last posted.  We are now Dr. and Dr. Fudge.  T.J. has completed his PhD and is now a post-doc at the University of Washington.  Jessie completed her Sports Medicine Fellowship at the University of Washington and is working in a sports practice in Everett, WA.  We have also added a member to the Fudge clan.  Adrian was born on October 12, 2013.  He seems to love snow, and is looking forward to some more “sled skiing” this winter.

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DSC04346 T.J.’s last project was at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide.  He published his findings in Nature.  You can link to the article here.  His new project will bring him to the South Pole where they are drilling another ice core.  Since, I am a bit jealous that he is returning to Antarctica without me, I like to remind him that I was the first Fudge to stand at the South Pole. Geographic South Pole We look forward to having you follow along on T.J.’s South Pole adventure.  Look for new posts starting early January.

First Sunset and Final Goodbye

It seems like just yesterday that I left Seattle for the adventure of a lifetime.  The plane returns tomorrow (hopefully) to bring me back to the land of color, smells, good food and family!  I had an amazing experience, learned a lot and met great friends.  It will be hard to leave, but I am ready for the next adventure!

The first sunset early this morning was a good way to wrap up the incredible season.  It was awesome to experience the final sunset earlier in the season and the first sunset at the end.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate to make the sunset this morning epic, but a hike after dinner proved beautiful.

Tomorrow, I say goodbye to great friends, incredible views and penguins.  Antarctica and the people of antarctica will always hold a special place in my heart.  I am so lucky to be able to share this incredible experience with T.J — it is one we will never forget.

Pancake Ice

There is a lot of different types of ice in Antarctica.  When the seasonal ice in front of the station started melting, I saw a new type of ice — Pancake Ice.  Until recently, I thought the ice took on the rounded shape because of the icebreaker, which was breaking up the channel. Pancake ice occurs naturally in cold waters!

I love the colors in  the following photo, which was taken by Jordan Watson.

Pancake ice is formed from frazil ice and grease ice.  Sea ice starts to form as frazil ice in cold moving water.  Frazil ice is composed of fine ice crystals floating at the surface.  The frazil ice then thickens and sticks together to form grease ice ,which can be seen at the left and top of the next image.

With time, the grease ice separates into ice discs from winds and tidal currents.  Pancake ice has raised edges from slush (frazil ice) freezing around the edge of the ice disc or from collisions between ice pieces.

The next two photos were also taken by Jordan.  A weddell seal checking us out through the broken ice:

And finally, an awesome photo of a piece of sheet ice floating away from station.  This is a large piece of ice that broke off from an ice shelf.  It is different from pancake ice.  I had to include it anyway, because it is such a neat photo! 

From Ice to Water

There has been a dramatic change in the view from the station over the past several weeks.  There is water in front of the station for the first time in the past decade.  The road that we used to drive on and the ice runway broke apart and floated out to sea yesterday afternoon. 

Here is a collection of photos taken over the past several months. 

Hut Point Ridge

Hut Point Ridge 10/20/2010
Hut Point Ridge 2/15/2011

Mt. Discovery

Mt. Discovery 1/30/2011
Mt. Discovery 2/15/2011

Hut Point

Hut Point 2/14/2011
Hut Point 2/15/2011

Ice Pier

Ice Pier 10/20/2010
Ice Pier 2/15/2011

My Favorite Beach

Beach 2/14/2011

Pancake Ice 2/14/2011

Crashing Waves 2/15/2011

What a difference a day makes!