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Notes from the Field

An Airport Boomerang

December 8th, 2011 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Lora Koenig

On December 5, we boomeranged to and from the airport. Here is a picture of Ludo and Clem in the inside of Ivan the Terra Bus on our way from McMurdo to the airport, Pegasus Field, for our flight to Byrd.

 And here is a picture of Ludo and Clem in the back of a Delta on our way back from the airport to McMurdo.

In the pictures they seem just as happy returning from the airport as they were going, but I think that was just for the camera.

We were all very excited about our flight to Byrd because we were already a week delayed in getting into the deep field. (Camps in the middle of Antarctica, outside of McMurdo Station, are called “the deep field.”) We boarded Ivan just after lunch for the 1 hour and 10 minute ride to Pegasus Field. Once at Pegasus, we were at the passenger terminal of the airport, a triple-wide trailer house that sits on a sled so it can be moved (it also serves as the Galley for airport workers), when we were told that the flight was canceled due to weather at Byrd. We were all a little sad because we want to get to Byrd to start collecting our science data. Our flight was canceled for good reason though; there was less than 100-meter visibility with high winds and blowing snow at Byrd, so there was no way a plane could land! We headed back into McMurdo and made it in time for dinner.

McMurdo is a small town and slightly more than 1,100 people are in there now, so all of our friends noticed that we were back. Everyone keeps asking when we are going to get to the field.  Well, we are going to try again today, December 7. We are scheduled for another flight with transport to the airport at 1645 this afternoon. Take off is scheduled for 7 PM and we’ll land at Byrd at around 10:30 PM if all goes well.

Actually, I think we were all secretly happy to have another Wednesday lunch in McMurdo because on Wednesdays we get cookies. We will all take a few extra cookies in our backpacks for a midnight snack at Byrd, if we make it tonight.

I am particularly anxious to get to Byrd soon because, this year, I will only be with the team until there. I will not be accompanying the team on the traverse. Once the rest of the team has left Byrd, I will head back to my office in NASA Goddard (Greenbelt, MD). My job this year is make sure the field methods, (drilling of the ice cores, taking the snow pit measurements and running the radars) are consistent with last year’s, and the team is trained and ready to go. Then I get to go home. I would love to stay with the team but I have an 18-month old son at home and last year I missed his first Holiday Season. This year, I want to be home. I am lucky to work with such a strong team so I do not have to be here for the entire time. Working in Antarctica is truly an amazing experience but with the austral summer being in December means that many polar scientists and workers spent their holidays away from family.

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and hopefully the next post will be from Byrd!