Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 30, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-30-2008
Location: Christchurch, NZ to McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Time: 10 pm
Latitude: 77°50'46.42"S
Longitude: 166°39'59.78"E
Elevation: 34m (112’)
Temperature: -5 °C ( °F)
Wind Chill: -10 °C (°F)
Breakfast: Trail mix snack
Lunch: Bag lunch: sandwich, chips, granola bar, apple, water.

Me in front of the LC-130
The inside of the plane. Note the sleeping people, seating on the side of
A closer look at the drift ice…
Land Ho!!! This was my first sight of Antarctica!
Ivan the shuttle bus.
McMurdo Station from Observation Hill.
5:30 AM – Wake up.
6:00 AM – Catch the shuttle to the airport.
7:15 AM – Check in.
9:00 AM – Take off from Christchurch!!
3:00 PM – First sight of Antarctica!!
5:00 PM – Land on Willy’s Airfield.
6:15 PM – Intro briefing for McMurdo.
7:30 PM – Ate dinner.
10:00 PM – Hiked up Observation Hill.
12:00 AM – Met some resident forklift drivers.
12:45 AM – Ate “Midrats” or Midnight Rations.
1:15 AM – Finally went to bed.

We are flying in a LC-130 which is a large cargo airplane operated by the U.S. National Guard with 4 propeller engines and a combination of skis and wheels for landing gear. Since it’s a military plane it is very basic and very loud. The airplane we were supposed to fly on was the C-17 which is larger, has 4 jet engines, and it can fully retract its landing gear, so its much faster and quieter. As such, our flight is going to be 8-10 hours instead of 4-5 hours for the C-17. On the flip side however, the LC-130 has a lot more windows which I am very happy about. Riding on this plane is Spruce, Natalie, Marie, Tim and I as well as ~15 military folks, some U.S. and some New Zealand. Right after we took off the military folks set up 5 cots to sleep on. It seemed to me that they had taken this flight so many times that they were not interested in the view, only in getting some rest while they were in the air. Two people also slept on top of the large pallet where all of our luggage was packaged. Once one of them got up I snagged that spot and slept for ~2 hours. It turned out to be quite comfortable! For ear protection they gave us earplugs, but I was excited about trying out my new noise canceling earbuds. They worked pretty well, but not as well as I was expecting/hoping. There are two “bathrooms”, the one at the front of the plane is just a urinal and the one at the back is a normal sit down toilet. Instead of doors/walls around the toilets there were curtains that could be folded back when the plane was taking off or landing. The only tricky thing was that since it is so loud in the plane, the only way to find out if someone is using the bathroom is by peeking behind the curtain. The plane was warmed by large hot air vents in the ceiling of the plane. This was nice except that they were too warm and if you were under the vents you got roasted!

The coolest thing about the flight was watching the progression of flying over open ocean, to seeing the first icebergs, to seeing lots of icebergs, to seeing the ocean almost totally covered in icebergs, to seeing the glacier and ice sheet covered mountains of Antarctica. The mountains we flew over were the Trans-Antarctic mountain range for about 3 hours of the flight. I have seen a lot of mountains and glaciers in my life, but these were by far the largest and most expansive.

We landed on Willy’s airfield which is just compacted snow on the Ross Ice Shelf! It is amazing to me that below the ice shelf there is seawater. From Willy’s airfield we took “Ivan” the terra bus over to McMurdo. Once we got into McMurdo we had our initial briefing about the town of McMurdo, ate dinner, and then went and got our luggage. After that Spruce & I hiked up Observation Hill (or Obb Hill for short) to get a view of the lay of the land. Even though I was mentally cognizant of the fact that the sun wouldn’t set while I was here, it was still surprising to be out hiking at 10pm at night and still be in broad daylight. After our hike we went exploring in a few of the buildings and we found the bouldering cave! I’m very excited about this, I had been told that there were some climbing holds on a wall, but not a full bouldering cave! I did bring my climbing shoes, and I’m hoping to get some bouldering in while I’m down here. We also met some people who are working here for the summer and hung out with them for awhile. This was fantastic because they gave us the low down on the fun things to do around McMurdo. Overall, I am really excited to finally be in Antarctica!!

Happy birthday Bess!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 29, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-29-2008
Location: Devon Hotel in Christchurch, NZ
Time: 9pm
Latitude: 43°31'43.04"S
Longitude: 172°37'58.15"E
Elevation: 75 m (246’)
Breakfast: Blueberry muffin & another pastry
Lunch: skipped
Supper: Veggie lasagna & a salad.
View overlooking Akaroa.

Today we spent the day in Akaroa. Tim and I had some work to do so we spent most of the day at the hostel, but everyone else went out and had fun. Bess had probably the best day of her life, and tomorrow is her birthday! In the morning she went swimming with dolphins, in the afternoon Spruce taught her how to surf, ate incredible food all day, and in the evening saw an amazing shooting star. Also we got word that we could ride on a New Zealand crew change flight on Sunday morning! In the evening we drove back to Christchurch and got ready for our flight (again). I’m somewhat skeptical that we are going to actually fly this time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 28, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-28-2008
Location: Akaroa, New Zealand
Time: 8pm
Latitude: 43°48'15.80"S
Longitude: 172°58'4.32"E
Elevation: 3m
Breakfast: Toast & an apple.
Lunch: Chowder with mussels.
Supper: Fish & Chips.

At 11:35 pm last night we got the notice that our flight was going to be canceled due to weather. Since this weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no more flights on Saturday or Sunday, so our next possible flight is next Monday. This is a bummer because it delays us even more, but also because I’ve heard that Thanksgiving is a lot of fun in McMurdo. Since we have a couple of days off we are heading to Akaroa for a couple of days. This is really nice for the people who just arrived, but I am antsy to get to Antarctica.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 27, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-27-2008
Location: Devon Hotel in Christchurch, NZ
Time: 8pm
Latitude: 43°31'43.04"S
Longitude: 172°37'58.15"E
Elevation: 75 m (246’)
Breakfast: Eggs, bacon, hashbrows, yogurt & fruit.
Lunch: Apple & a roll.
Supper: Lots of Indian food

Thanksgiving dinner with the crew. From left to right it is: Marie DelGrego, Natalie Kehrwald, Tim Bartholomaus, Gifford Wong, Susanne Buchardt, Anais Orsi, Spruce Schoenemann, Bess Koffman, and Me.

Ken’s flight made it! We are scheduled to go to the airport at 12:30am tonight. Everyone is excited and hoping that our flight isn’t delayed. I again spent most of the day running around town & taking care of last minute errands. For Thanksgiving dinner we went out to an Indian restaurant with the whole group. It was lots of fun and I was quite happy to stuff myself by finishing off all of the leftover dishes once everyone else was full! I’m fattening myself up for Antarctica!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home from New Zealand!

New Zealand - Nov 27, 2008 - Ken


Work is progressing at WAIS Divide. Major storms have slowed progress adding to the effort required to get the arch structure ready for drilling. The 2008 image shows how much the arch drifted over since the 2007 image. The top of the almost-buried arch in the foreground of the picture is 16'5" off of the 2005 snow surface (the arch was erected in 2005). All of the drillers (ICDS) and core handlers are in McMurdo. We hope to get 4 of them out to WAIS Divide on Wednesday, and the rest of the crew out to WAIS Divide later this week.

Kendrick Taylor

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 26, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-26-2008
Location: Devon Hotel in Christchurch, NZ
Time: 9pm
Latitude: 43°31'43.04"S
Longitude: 172°37'58.15"E
Elevation: 75 m (246’)
Breakfast: Eggs, bacon, hashbrows, yogurt & fruit.
Lunch: Korean seafood
Supper: Sushi

Spent the day walking around town & buying things that I realized that I might need/want in Antarctica. Not much to report though, just passing the time. Ken Taylor was able to get a seat on a plane leaving late this evening and the rest of us are supposed to fly tomorrow. The second wave of core handlers arrived in New Zealand today, so now we will all be heading to Antarctica together. The folks that arrived on this wave include Gifford, Bess, Tim, Susanne, and Marie.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 25, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-25-2008
Location: Devon Hotel in Christchurch, NZ
Time: 10pm
Latitude: 43°31'43.04"S
Longitude: 172°37'58.15"E
Elevation: ~10 m (’)
Temperature: °C ( °F)
Wind speed: km/h ( mp/h)
Wind Chill: °C (°F)
Wind direction:
Relative Humidity:
Barometric Pressure:
Animals: Dusky Dolphins!!! Also the Wandering Albatross.
Breakfast: Blueberry muffin & French bread with nutella
Lunch: An apple
Supper: Fish & rice. Chocolate cake for dessert.

Underwater photo of a dolphin swimming with me.
Spruce, Ken, Natalie, & Anais in their snorkeling gear.
Dolphins jumping (all of the white splashes are dolphins!).

Today I had an incredible experience, I swam with dolphins! We woke up at 5am, put on ~5mm wetsuits & snorkeling gear then got on the Dolphin Encounters boat & drove across the Kaikoura bay. It didn’t take long to find the pod of wild Dusky dolphins which are a type of bottle nosed dolphin. The Dolphin Encounter boat captain said that the pod of ~350-400 dolphins that we found was unusually large. The Dusky dolphins are 1.6-1.8m long and weigh 70-80kg. We drove to the front of the pod and the boat dropped us in the water. Visibility under the water was ~15 meters and the water was incredibly cold – my hands and feet which were not covered by the wetsuit were numb within minutes. The first thing that I noticed was how many dolphins swimming all around us…they were so graceful and beautiful! I felt incredibly clumsy in the water next to them, but they seemed to enjoy playing with us, like for example they would swim around me about 2 feet away while I tried to keep up with them by spinning in place so that we maintained eye contact. At one time I did this with a dolphin for almost two minutes! There is something very special with maintaining eye contact with an incredibly intelligent animal for that long. There was at least one baby dolphin that I saw in the pod as well. We got to swim around for ~15 minutes, then we got back in the boat, moved to a new spot, swam for ~15 more minutes, and then did it again for a total of ~45 minutes swimming with dolphins! After we were done swimming we got back in the boat and drove around for awhile. The dolphins would swim right in front of the bow of the boat and jump around just to the side of it!

Once back on land, we drove back to Christchurch only to find out that flights to Antarctica for the past couple of days had been delayed due to poor weather conditions and so we would also get delayed by two additional days. This will give me a chance to get caught up on other things I guess.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 24, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-24-2008
Location: Dolphin Lodge, Kaikoura
Time: 10pm
Latitude: 42°24'14.08"S
Longitude: 173°40'57.40"E
Elevation: ~20 m
Wind speed: ~40-60 mph
Precipitation: heavy in the morning
Breakfast: Musli & other leftover food
Lunch: Tuna and crackers
Supper: Fish & Chips

Last night it rained a lot! Spruce and I were sleeping in bivy sacks under a tarp and although we weren’t getting rained on directly, our bivy sacks were getting wet from the rain drops splashes. By the morning I realized that my bivy sack is no longer waterproof because my sleeping pad and sleeping bag were damp. At 10am we caught our scheduled Water Taxi (just a boat that takes people from beach to beach in this National Park) back to where our car was parked. Very convenient!! The first order of business was getting dry and then I drove us back to Kaikoura. Driving in New Zealand is a lot of fun because there are great roads, great scenery, and you drive on the left side of the road. I have some practice at this from when I lived in Nepal, but even so it took a few minutes to get used to it. The most common mistake is to turn on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker because they are on opposite sides. On our way to Kaikoura we stopped at the Ohau Point seal colony roadside pullout. There were at least a hundred seals hanging out on the rocks here! The greatest part was that there was a fairly large tidepool that was about the size of a small pool or a large hot tub where the juvenile seals would wrestle and play around a lot and just cause a ruckus. When we got to Kaikoura the wind had really picked up to about 40-60 mph and there were huge 10-12’ waves crashing on a sandy beach! It was very beautiful and also intimidating at the same time. Tomorrow we are supposed to swim with the dolphins, but I’m not quite sure if it will happen since the sea is so rough.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 23, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-23-2008
Location: Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
Time: ~9pm
Latitude: 40°55'15.58"S
Longitude: 173° 3'16.92"E
Elevation: 2 m
Precipitation: light to heavy rain throughout the day
Animals: Birds including the New Zealand Bellbird and all black oystercatcher, sand flies

Breakfast: Muesli w/ dried fruit.
Lunch: Bagels w/ lettuce, cucumber, cheese, tuna.
Supper: Cuscus with Lamb and beef sauce from pouches.

Photo notes:

Spruce and Natalie in front of Cleopatra's pool
Spruce sliding down the waterslide into Cleopatra?s pool
Ken and Natalie on a suspension bridge over Falls River.

Hiked another ~11km today. Saw a neat pair of black oystercatcher birds that were feeding on critters in the sand. It rained most of the day and just about everything is totally soaked except for my sleeping bag, a spare shirt, and a pair of socks. We stopped briefly by Cleopatra's Pool which is a neat area of large granite boulders that have made natural pools. Despite the cold rain and no possibility of drying off, Spruce jumped in the even colder river and slid down the natural waterslide! The water was very brown from all of the tannins that were leeching out of the forest and into the river. One pleasant thing along the trail today was all of the beautiful bird calls from the New Zealand bellbirds. I only got a few fleeting glimpses of the bellbird, but I was able to record a video that has their calls on it. When we were setting up camp in the evening the weather cleared for a little bit, but the sand flies came out in force and were biting any exposed skin. The sand flies have been present all along the trail, but tonight they were especially bad. Because of the sand flies and rain we stopped in a hut again for a couple of hours to dry off & cook dinner.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 22, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-22-2008
Location: Te Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
Time: ~9 pm
Latitude: 40°57'9.92"S
Longitude: 173° 3'49.78"E
Elevation: 2 m
Temperature: ~15-20°C
Wind: light to moderate
Precipitation: light to moderate
Animals: Dead boar, lots of birds including the New Zealand Bellbird and quail, sand
flies, and lots of intertidal sea critters (hermit crab, flat worm, sea anemone, regular crabs, chitons, millipede, snails, etc)
Breakfast: Scones w/ New Zealand brand of Nutella (it had crunchy stuff in it like
crunchy peanut butter!) and peanut butter.
Lunch: Pita bread sandwiches w/ cheese, tuna, and cucumber.
Supper: Pasta with sundried tomato sauce and salmon.

Photo notes:
Flat worm
Crab that is about the size of a pea!
Closed sea anemone and barnacle
Hermit crab

We hiked ~7km today which we knew wouldn?t take all that long, so we took our time along the trail and had many stops. We met a hunting ranger on one beach who hunts wild boar in the Abel Tasman National Park. New Zealand has many introduced species that have dramatically impacted the natural flora and fauna, and now much is being done to try to control or eliminate these introduced species, one of which is the wild boar. Wild boar cause extensive damage because they dig up the forest floor in search of roots to eat. The ranger had parked his boat on the beach, but it became stranded when the tide went out and so we helped him push it back into the water so that he didn't have to wait for the tide to come back in. He had killed one boar that day which was sitting in the boat. He told us that he usually kills 2-3 boar when he goes hunting, but that he doesn't go every day. The way they kill the boar is they release dogs which have GPS transmitters attached to their collars, and when the dogs corner the boar, they follow the GPS track to where the boar is cornered and then shoot it. Its not really sporting, but then again they are going for efficiency and not sport. Low tide that day was right at lunchtime, so Spruce and I went searching for cool intertidal critters and we found a ton! By turning over a few rocks that looked devoid of sea critters on top we found whole communities on the undersides. The neatest find for me was a hermit crab. When I was a kid I used to live in Tucson, AZ and every summer we would come up to visit the Oregon Coast and one year my Mom allowed me to get a pet hermit crab. You could hold the hermit crab on your hand and it would come out of its shell and crawl around, so I decided to see if this New Zealand hermit crab would do the same thing, and it did! It was pretty shy though, and eventually it decided to just hide out in its shell until we left. The weather today was
cooler and the light to moderate rain is starting to soak most of our camping gear, but we are still in good spirits. There are a couple of huts at the larger campgrounds where we would stop and get out of the rain for a little bit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 21, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-21-2008
Location: Appletree Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
Time: 9pm
Latitude: 40°59'4.27"S
Longitude: 173° 2'13.21"E
Elevation: 2 m
Temperature: ~15-20°C
Clouds: High lenticular and scattered lower level cumulus
Animals: Deer, sheep, cows, birds, etc.Breakfast: veggie wrap
Lunch: Supermarket deli sandwich & chips
Supper: Thai yellow curry w/ Jasmine rice & red wine

Photo notes:
Morning view inland from our campsite.
The group from left to right: Ken Taylor, Spruce Shonneman, Natalie
Kehrwald, Anais Orsi.
NZ tree ferns.
Ken and Spruce on the trail.
Misc. beach that we passed.
Me overlooking the Abel Tasman National Park coastline.

In the morning as we were driving on a rutted dirt road leaving camp we hit a rock with the underside of the van. We didn't think much of it at the time, but after driving for a few hours we stopped for breakfast. After breakfast we noticed a pool of oil beneath the van which turned out to be coming from the transmission. On closer inspection we saw that the rock had put a sizeable dent in the transmission oil pan and deformed it so that it wasn't making a good seal and was leaking around the edge. We spent a couple of hours asking around town if there were any spare parts to fix it only to find out that this part is no longer made, there are no spare parts in the town we are in, and there aren't even spare parts in Japan where the van came from! After mulling over our predicament for awhile we finally tried to tighten the bolts around the transmission pan only to find out that they were very loose and that we stopped the leaking just by tightening the bolts!

What would a road trip be without a little car trouble to mix it up? We then finished
driving up to Abel Tasman National Park and began hiking at around 5pm. We only had a
couple of kilometers to go so we were at camp in short order and cooked up a delicious
dinner, watched another amazing sunset and went to bed happy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 20, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-20-2008
Location: End of Old Beach Road, just north of Kaikoura
Time: 10 pm
Latitude: 42°19'56.38"S
Longitude: 173°43'41.75"E
Elevation: 2 m
Temperature: ~15-20°C
Animals: a few seals & lots of seabirds
Breakfast: Eggs, bacon, hash browns & toast at Devon Hotel
Lunch: Lamb meat pie and potato wedges at the Antarctica Visitor Center
Supper: Whole crayfish, whitefish patty, and rice at roadside shack.

Photo Notes:
Me in front of the Clothing Distribution Center.
My crayfish dinner!

After a relaxed morning we went to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) where we got outfitted with our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. This included a huge down jacket (common called Big Red), another shell jacket, hard shell bibs, multiple sets of gloves, hats, fleece jackets and pants, and long underwear. This gear gets checked out every year by people working in Antarctica so most of it is used and quite a bit worn, but some of it is newish. After this we started driving north along the coast and we stopped in Kaikoura for dinner. Kaikoura is a Maori word with kai meaning food and koura meaning crayfish, so naturally I wanted to try some crayfish here. I was expecting to find crayfish like we have in the states, about 3-5" long, but boy was I surprised when they served me a crayfish that at about a foot long was as big as a small lobster! After dinner we headed out to a beach that a local had told us we could camp for free at. When we arrived we met a New Zealand fishing guide who was fishing for a type of shark called a rig right off the beach. He caught one that was about 3-1/2' long just before we arrived and it was really cool to check it out. We found out lots of interesting thing from him, like for example this past winter has been the first typical winter in about a decade in terms of weather and snowfall and rig is the best meat to use for fish & chips. After watching a gorgeous sunset we fell asleep on the beach.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 19, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell from Oregon State University reporting

Date: 11-19-2008
Location: Christchurch, NZ
Time: 11 pm
Latitude: 43° 31.87‘ S
Longitude: 172° 37.27’ E
Elevation: 75 m (246’)
Temperature: ~18°C (~60°F)
Animals: Herds of sheep seen from the plane, butterflies in botanical garden.
Breakfast: Eggs, sausage and fresh fruit on the airplane.
Lunch: Thai food.
Supper: Rack of lamb ribs with roasted potatoes.

Today we arrived in New Zealand after a long series of flights. I began my trip from my hometown of Corvallis, OR on Nov 16, 2008. I drove up to Portland and visited my Dad for a day then on Monday, Nov 17, 2008 I got on a plane. I flew from Portland, OR to Los Angles, CA to Aukland, NZ to Christchurch, NZ. In total, I was in the air for ~16 hours. Since we crossed the international dateline, we skipped Tuesday and landed on Wednesday Nov 19, 2008. When we got off the plane in Christchurch we were met by a Raytheon employee who informed us that we would be staying in New Zealand until November 26 and not be flying immediately to McMurdo as planned because of delays at WAIS Divide. Later we found out that the delays were caused in part because the D4 bulldozer broke down. The D4 is essential for digging the camp out so it will take a lot more time than we anticipated to prepare the camp before the science crew can arrive. In light of this we made plans to go hiking along the northern coast of New Zealand in the Able Tasman National Park. After that we went out to see the sights around Christchurch. The difference between the Fall season in the Northern Hemisphere and the Spring season in the Southern Hemisphere was very apparent. The whole day we were marveling at the wonderful weather and at all of the New Zealanders out lying in the grass and soaking up the sun. We visited the botanical gardens where there is a wide variety of vibrant roses in full bloom as well as some more tropical plants. We also visited the local museum where we learned a lot about prehistoric flora and fauna of New Zealand, indigenous hunting practices, and the history of the great Antarctic explorers. Most importantly, I got to see my first penguin! All in all it has been a wonderful day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

WAIS - Nov 3, 2008 - Matthew Kippenhan

WAIS Divide is back in action

Sunny but windy, between -32 C and -35 C.

WAIS Divide opened on Saturday, 11/01, via Basler at 2 pm. They refueled
the Basler and were in the modules by 3 pm. They quickly turned on
heat, got the generators going, and ran propane in the galley. Most
things wintered well. The arch has drifted a lot, but you can still see some metal on the smaller arch building. All of the heavy equipment is running, as well as four snow machines. The McM and WSD fuelies
are setting up the fuel system today. The heavy equipment operator
started grooming the skiway today to prepare for a backup flight in two
days. WAIS is a primary flight on both Thursday and Friday and five
missions are proposed for next week.