Monday, December 22, 2008

Where exactly am I?

It's a little tough to visualize exactly where I am on the globe. Here is a little geography lesson. The Ross Sea is just about due south of New Zealand. I'm not exactly on the continent of Antarctica. I'm on Ross Island. McMurdo Station is on the southern tip of the island. For you Google Earth users, the exact coordinates of our dorm are:

Lat: -77.845418 Lon: 166.662462

Google Earth image with the McMurdo area at the center of the globe here.

This is a recent satellite photo of the sea ice. The green arrow is pointing at McMurdo. As you can see, we are completely surrounded by ice.

The mainland of Antarctica is visible all around us from McMurdo. This view of Ross Island shows where Mt. Erebus, Terra Nova, and Mt. Terror are on the island. McMurdo is on the southern tip of the long peninsula coming down from the island. The entire island is built by volcanic action, so it is just a bunch of black dirt. There is no native vegetation. McMurdo Station has the nickname "Dirt Town" because of its lack of snow and lack of vegetation. It looks like a dirty old mountain mining town.

Here is a map of McMurdo. I have labeled some of the landmarks in town. It has basically everything that a small town has except all of the residents live in communal living and eat in a central dining hall. In the 1950's, when this was a Navy base,it was called "Little America". In the Navy days, the power for town was provided by an aircraft carrier sized nuclear reactor. Today, the power is produced by a bank of huge diesel generators. I'm not too sure about why the waste water plant is so close to the fresh water treatment plant.

If we zoom out a little, you can see the whole tip of the peninsula. McMurdo is on the west side and Scott Base (NZ) is on the east side. We take a van or bus across to Scott Base where the "transition" is from the dirt road to the sea ice. The weather has been very warm lately with highs in the mid to upper 30's F. The transition is getting very slushy. Van traffic has been shut down now so we can only travel to and from Willy field in vehicles that have big balloon tires like Ivan the Terrabus or Deltas.

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