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Finally, On the Ice!

Victoria Land

After a six-day delay, we arrived yesterday at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The storm that had been preventing our departure finally cleared, and we had a smooth and pleasant flight across the Southern Ocean. Because this was my first flight to Antarctica and we had been postponed for so many days, the flight was far more exciting than any commercial flight for me. I had also never flown in a military plane before, and during the flight I got a chance to go into the cockpit for a spectacular view as we flew over the icy continent. I’ve been reading about Antarctica for years now and have seen countless photos, but my first views of the continent from the cockpit and out the small windows were breathtaking. As we flew over the Victoria Land, I saw the first glimpse of the Transantarctic Mountains peeking out from a sea of snow and ice, glacier after glacier engulfing the majestic and seemingly tiny peaks. We arrived to slightly cloudy weather with a bit of wind and relatively warm late-spring temperatures of -5 to -10 degrees Celsius (23 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), though windchill made it seem colder.

Ivan the Terra Bus

To get to the station from the airfield, we load onto a kind of monster bus with big wheels for driving over the ice and snow. After a five-minute ride to the station’s cafeteria, we were greeted with a short arrival briefing and sent on our way. A few hours later, we’ve been issued dorm room keys, our luggage unloaded, and we settle into our rooms. My room is a 6-bunk room in the same building as the cafeteria. Because we will be here only briefly before we leave to go to the deep field, we’ve been put up in some of the more temporary housing. Around 5:30, my advisor Slawek and I went with growling stomachs to our first dinner in the McMurdo cafeteria. As I passed through the food serving area, I was momentarily deceived by the ordinary cafeteria surroundings into wondering where the salad bar was. That thought passed quickly as I remembered with a chuckle that fresh produce was something we’d have to do without for the next six weeks. Although McMurdo has a greenhouse where a small quantity of vegetables are grown–and sometimes flights carrying “freshies” come in–fresh produce is a luxury here. Frozen green beans it is!

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