Today was our first full day in McMurdo, the logistics hub of the U.S. Antarctic Program. McMurdo is really more of a small town than a remote field outpost, with a summer population of up to 1200.
The station was first established in the austral (that
is, the southern hemispere) summer of 1955-56, in advance of the International Polar
Year in 1957-58. Since that time, it has grown considerably as more and more scientists
and science projects have come to Antarctica.
McMurdo has facilities to support science projects (like ours) with lab space, office
space and computer connectivity. There are also facilities to support the flights in
and out of McMurdo, including cargo, refueling, maintence, weather and air traffic. All
of these facilities require power, heat and water, which requires workcenters for power
generation, water production and people to maintain these systems. All of these people
need space to live in and a place to eat. You might see how the system has grown to
it's current size through the steady increase in science causing an increase in the
supporting logistics. Each year, there are about 3000 people who come to McMurdo,
either for science directly, or to support the science that happens here.
Today, we spent most of the day sorting and packing our food. Our journey this year
will last about 15 weeks, and will have 9 people for the first 4 weeks, and 12 people
after that. All of this requires a substantial amount of food. Yesterday, we sorted
and packed about half of our dry food (things like rice, pasta, crackers, cereals); this
took pretty much all day. In the photo, Lou and Einar discuss dinner options.
Most of this food was sent down by ship last year, and we choose what we want from a
very large list. Although each science party could bring their own food with them from
home, this would require flying all the food to Antarctica. It is far more efficient to
bring down as many item as possible by cargo ship. The U.S. program sends a ship down
to McMurdo once a year, usually in early Feburary. Any large or heavy item needs to be
bought well in advance and sent down by ship. For example, our food we will eat this
year (2008-09) was bought in the U.S. in summer or fall of 2007, and arrived in McMurdo
by ship in Februrary 2008. It's not exactly fresh, but most pre-packed foods keep quite
well down here. However, by maximizing the efficiency of moving as many things as
possible by boat, the Antarctic Program is able to support more science, like ours.
Einar and Lou sorting and packing food in McMurdo (Photo: Tom Neumann)