Crazy Weather, Cool Toys, and an Ice Helmet

Our first two full days in Antarctica have been amazing. It’s a whole new world down here. The sun and moon skirt across the horizon like they are circling us, instead of rising in the east and passing over head.

The first sunrise didn’t occur until 10 days ago and already the sun is up for 6 hours. Each day gets longer and longer so quickly, I worry we’ll miss our chance to see the aurora australis (a.k.a. the southern lights). Within a month it will be light out almost all day long.

The first day was calm and clear, but still very, very cold. The second day I woke to 30-40 mph winds and a wind chill  of -39°F! To illustrate how cold that is: I squeezed in a short workout in-between some of our safety/survival training and was running a few minutes late.  I did not dry my hair thoroughly or I was still sweating from the workout when I ran out the door to make the next class. I put on my gloves with my hat tucked under my arm as I ran out. When I went to put my hat on mere seconds later, my hair was frozen solid. I freaked out and put the hat on immediately, so there is no photo evidence of my ice helmet.

The science and support staff at McMurdo station is out of this world. I’ve been to a fair amount of field research centers and this place surpasses them all. They have all sorts of high tech science “toys” and fancy equipment here and multiple people to help you use it, too. It’s really remarkable that a place this remote, in such an extreme environment, could run this smoothly. My hat is off to all the scientists and staff… but not for too long because, ya know, my hair might freeze again.

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