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Training and Finally Arriving in Antarctica

MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– Between training, training and more training, I finally arrived at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. So now the blogging will begin! But let’s start with last September with my California vacati….I mean training.

Early September, I made my way to SoCal to visit the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It probably has one of the best campus locations I have ever seen. It is literally right on La Jolla Beach. Scripps has a couple of sets of flasks that collect air samples down at the South Pole so they wanted to give me some background on their program, history and some information about the equipment. I had to kind of laugh because the first time meeting Kim Bracchi, who was one of the people training me, she was just getting off the beach for an afternoon swim in the ocean. Typical California style. The group at Scripps is led by Ralph Keeling who’s father Charles Keeling is the person who began the longest running data set of carbon dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This graph of data is called the “Keeling Curve” which describes the rise in carbon dioxide since the 1950’s. I find it cool that I get to take part in this kind of history.

The Keeling Curve.

The actual training on how to collect the flask samples didn’t take too long. They keep it pretty simple which is good for when you want to do anything for long periods of time. This gave me a good chance to get out and about in the La Jolla area which was fantastic. I was able to spend a few days at the beach, and have a couple nights out on the town in La Jolla and Pacific Beach. Both great locations.

Straight from there, that same week, I went up to San Fransisco to The Exploratorium. The Exploratorium is a science learning center that has many hands-on exhibits for kids to try to gain some interest in science. The Exploratorium and NOAA just signed a memorandum of understanding so both can benefit from each other. They were holding a media training workshop for polar scientists in celebration of the International Polar Year so that we could be Ice Stories correspondents. This training was great. We learned some basics on shooting video, recording audio, taking still pictures, conducting interviews, and some storytelling. They also hooked us up with a bunch of equipment to use during our time on the ice. They had never had one of their correspondents winter over at the South Pole so they were looking forward to having someone from NOAA participate.

After the Cali excursion, I took two and a half weeks off to head back to Wisconsin to hang out with friends and family. I had a good barbecue at the parents house and got some last minute golfing in. It was also nice to hang out with some old friends before getting thrown into the South Pole with a whole bunch of strangers. This also gave me time to get a bit organized after all of my previous traveling to American Samoa and California.

This brings us into late September where I am finally back to my apartment in Boulder, CO. It was good to relax there for a bit, however I had to jump right into Trauma and Firefighting training. This lasted for about a week and a half and was a useful refresher to what I got prior to heading out to my ship assignment a few years ago. I can guess that I wouldn’t be the best person on a trauma team to assist in any injuries at the Pole so I think that helping on a fire team would suit me better. They require that you are on one or the other. The instructor for the trauma training was an interesting guy though. He was a retired Air Force Para-Rescue medic. He was dropped in some really bad situations with lots of casualties. I have a lot of respect for that work.

So with the training out of the way, I blinked and I found myself in Christchurch, New Zealand after 20 hours in an airplane (yuck!!!). Christchurch was great though. It is a beautiful clean city with lots of good ethnic food. I can’t wait to get back there after the Pole and explore New Zealand more. Can’t think about it too much though, I still have a year of frigid temperatures ahead of me.

View from the Air Force C-17 on approach to McMurdo Station.

Today, I arrived in McMurdo Station, Antarctica. We were told it was -15F with -30F to-40F wind chill. It was cold but it didn’t feel too bad because we had all of our extreme cold weather gear (ECW) on. The flight was pretty good. There is actually quite a lot of room on an Air-Force C-17. I was a little nervous when landing because you can’t see out the windows when in your seat. The approach to the Pegasus ice runway seemed to take FOREVER.

I prepare to don the ECW gear to exit the aircraft.

But when we landed and were able to get out of the plane, I looked around and couldn’t help myself from grinning. It is literally a breathtaking view when you first see it. The mountains are massive and bright white with some jagged rocks sticking out of the snow and ice. There is ice, ice, and more ice down here. It’s pretty cool. Tomorrow I will get my bearings a little better and try to figure out when I fly to the Pole.

So I’m finally in Antarctica with the next stop being the South Pole. Unfortunately, my case containing my camera gear got held up in Sydney and I haven’t gotten it yet. So there will be no video or audio but I do have my camera and computer to write and post pictures. Sounds like that’s all for now…it’s been a busy day and I’m beat. Talk to you all again in a few days.

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6 Responses »

  1. ECW?!?!. Yes!!!!! Wild stuff man, stay safe!

  2. Wow that is a lot of training but I would say that it was well worth it.So glad you were able to have abit of a vacation before heading on back to Antarctica.Love the few pictures that are on here..

  3. wow interesting! thanks for doing this! I never really understood when you tried to explain to me what you did haha

  4. Hey Nick!!
    So glad things are going well for you! It sounds like a really neat experience, way to sneak in a little vaca while you can! Stay warm!!

  5. Cool stuff, Nick. I’ll be keeping up with your blog. Stay warm.

  6. Looks like paradise outside the window of the C-17!! Cool Stuff!! Try to stay warm and keep us posted!!