Crary Crary Quite Contrary

Well, my trip to pole is officially (finally) cancelled for the day. Not a moment too soon – I’ve been wearing way too much gear all day, just incase. Whew! Conditions are such that my checked cargo bag won’t even be retrieved from the runway pallet for a few hours. Some very kind folks (Pam Hill, Field Support Coordinator and Andy Young, my official “POC” or Point-of-Contact) are now working to reschedule my trip for next week.

For those who’ve asked for more details about my office in the science lab, here are a few extra bits of data. Enclosed (see below) are two views of McMurdo which I shot as my plane from New Zealand did that scenic fly-by (edge of ice field is visible in the foreground).

Bonus: Aerial shot of Crary Lab (photo by Texas A & M University).

Crary Lab has three buildings, or “Phases,” constructed on a slope and joined by a steep central (enclosed) staircase with both a long inclined slope (for hauling wheeled equipment between levels) and stairs. All of the external doors to Crary have industrial gleaming handles reminiscent of a science hospital on, say, Pluto.

My office is located in Crary Lab Phase 2, with a great (albeit frozen) sea-side view. My office mates are currently the photographer George Steinmetz and his intrepid assistant Lars. This morning George showed some proofs of his recent photo-shoot in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Based on a conversation I just had in the galley (with helo pilot Paul of PHI helicopter support) most, I think, were taken from a helicopter as George moved between several locations in a short amount of time, and he was shooting at 2 am, when the sun is the “lowest” here in McMurdo. The photos, even viewed at postcard size on his computer screen, were absolutely incredible – the Dry Valley outcrops looked like they were on fire, constructed from orange peels sprayed with fluorescent paint. No filters – that’s just how light soaks into desiccated rock, I guess! Also, George pointed out, his camera body cost as much as a car. (Note to self: set alarm clock for 2 am as soon as the weather clears and trade my car for a magic camera!) Here’s a link to learn more about George Steinmetz and his work: http://www.georgesteinmetz.com/.

As mentioned earlier: an iceberg team is housed next door, officially stalking “Giant Icebergs of the Ross Sea” including B-15A (which is big enough to declare statehood, except that it has no permanent residents). Read article on the Iceberg project.

A suite of offices across the hallway are occupied by STRATEOLE/VORCORE, French scientists who launched “superpressure balloons” to study dynamics and transport inside Antarctica’s stratospheric polar vortex. While I was in Christchurch, VORCORE had 21 balloons in the air above/around Antarctica simultaneously….

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Poetry and artwork everywhere here.

The musician/diver Henry Kaiser just stopped by to give me a cd of his music “Collection of Curiosities”, including the cut “Platelet Ice” from his Antarctic Guitar project (2002). Instead of a menu, the message board in the galley last night featured a handwritten stanza – from a poem by William Blake. I asked around the kitchen staff, but no one was sure who wrote it up there. There’s a tiny wooden bridge (rising up-and-over a bundle of above-ground pipes which likely includes McMurdo’s communication infrastructure, water, sewer and electrical), and along the railing of the bridge is carved a short verse about strangers becoming old friends. In the Science Support Center there is a poem written by a woman who wanted to dedicate a verse to her amazing pee-bottle collection device. The Berg Field Center has a poem seeking forgiveness, concerning a urine bottle that, well, froze during field deployment and was accidentally returned in this condition (everyone is responsible for sanitizing personal equipment and returning things in the clean condition we received them). Scatologically speaking, both verses are both heartfelt and proudly displayed. The lines don’t always rhyme but neither does life! The same buildings also proudly exhibit sublime landscape paintings by past Antarctic artist D. Rosenthal, and Slice-of-Ice-Life-images by Antarctic photographer James Barker (who I was lucky enough to meet last summer and entertain in my garden while he was in Minnesota!).

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Off to snowmobile school instead of dinner, then maybe a film about the first Women’s Expedition to cross Antarctica, set to play in the Galley tonight.

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