Tuesday, January 2, 2007

What's New?

McMurdo awoke to snow flurries and strong winds on New Year’s Day! And although some wouldn’t call this a good change in weather, it did feel like a welcome change at least for a short while – it covered the town in a thin blanket of white, making the town look a little less brown! The winds were picking up and it made sense to stay indoors, but me and a few more adventurous souls (Kam and Alain) decided otherwise and went out on our usual ‘after lunch stroll’ to Hut Point. Going there was easy as we were heading west, while the wind was blowing snow from the East. Once there however, we soon found it to be a lot windier; which we should’ve expected and to add to that, it looked like the snow fall had just gotten heavier. We could barely see the outline of Ob Hill, less than a mile away. And this was still considered relatively safe weather to be outdoors in the Antarctic! So, after spending a brief exciting time imagining what a ‘bad weather condition’ must be like we headed back into town.

Weather systems in the Antarctic are truly unpredictable and each new day could easily see the weather change overnight. The next day did just that. Unusually warm, about 4 degrees Celcius and almost no wind in the morning. Robo was glad that he could almost go out in a T-shirt and shorts! We walked again to Hut Point and could see the Swedish icebreaker Oden a few miles out, making its way through the sea ice to McMurdo. It was carving a channel that was being worked on and widened by the U.S. Coast Guard Polar Sea, which was following the Oden a few miles behind. Eventually, they would make a passageway open for cargo vessels to come in to McMurdo towards the end of the month. As we watched the icebreaker in the distance, a LC-130 aircraft passed by us flying low, making a flyby past the Oden, continuing to the Polar Sea and turning back and flying over us again to Willey Field.

The Swedish icebreaker Oden makes its way towards McMurdo.

Mr. Robertson looks out at the icebreaker, while a LC-130 flies past in the distance.

An LC-130 flying on its way towards the Oden.

Although things looked well in McMurdo, all wasn’t well. I and my colleague Liz, had arrived here early to get things setup and ready to go when the rest of our team (7 members) arrived in McMurdo, so that we could leave for our three week field camp to the Dry Valleys. Our team was scheduled to arrive today, but unfortunately, the C-17 had developed a mechanical problem and couldn’t fly until it was fixed. Hopefully, this would be done soon and weather co-operating they would be here in time for their snow school which was scheduled for the 5th!

I was also hoping that the warm weather would bring out more penguins but, for now we only had the company of a few Weddell Seals laying on the ice edge basking in the warm sunshine. There were a few clouds high up in the sky, but it was unusually clear on Mt. Discovery which seemed to glow in the soft light.

A Weddell Seal enjoying its afternoon nap.

Mt. Discovery glows in the soft sunlight.

Late that night, about half past midnight (technically Jan 03) the sky had suddenly come alive with clouds high up in the atmosphere being drawn out in an amazing pattern. The low midnight sun shone from behind this thin veneer of clouds, dramatically lighting up the mountains.

Mountain with a silver lining!

The sun and and sky transform the landscape below.

The midnight sun shines through the clouds.

No comments: