Summer begins for contractors in Antarctica
In McMurdo, September means the start of mainbody— also known as the summer season in Antarctica. This year, McMurdo welcomed two C-17 aircraft in mid-September, officially marking the beginning of season. With them came a lot of changes for the personnel on station. Of the remaining people who worked through the winter season, many flew off continent and headed home. In their place, each aircraft delivered more than 100 McMurdo personnel and grantees as well as some much-desired station supplies and personal mail.
September also kicked off the first rounds of scientific research for many of the grantees on station and they’re already off to exciting starts. Among the science groups creating a lot of buzz on station was the SIMPLE team. Standing for Sub-ice Investigation of Marine and Planetary-analogue Ecosystems, the group is a NASA funded project seeking to better understand the ice-ocean interface under Antarctica. With news surfacing from NASA this month about flowing water on Mars, the SIMPLE project’s findings may one day prove beneficial in exploring other bodies in the solar system for water and possible lifeforms.
To coincide with the start of science research on station, the staff at the Crary Lab began offering tours. Held every Sunday, the tours provide an exciting up-close look into the science conducted and supported by McMurdo operations and personnel.
Mother Nature presented many challenges during the month of September, with McMurdo Station receiving a couple days of Condition 1 weather. But it also provided much beauty to behold, with several days of prominent nacreous cloud formations and a rare unobstructed Blood Moon which will not be seen again until 2033.
With mainbody preparations in full swing, many departments on station have been offering training. Environmental, field and safety training courses can now be found around station for all new personnel. Among other preparations in September were the de-winterizing of several dorms in preparation for the influx of personnel arriving on station.
An exciting variety of new recreation classes started in the month of September. Different kinds of martial arts, aerobics and yoga were among some of the new classes offered. Such classes have been a healthy antidote to the influx of cookies that are now provided 24/7 by the galley staff. In addition, the cooks instituted a variety of changes over the month of September. They began testing a series of different food and dining arrangements to better serve the growing population on station. Egg lovers rejoiced when it was announced that the current two-egg limit had been removed. However, the most exciting addition has been the reopening of the locally famous American Grill.
The new Alpha Runway concept, which is expected to hopefully take over the current Pegasus Runway once complete, made some exciting headway, with several key snow compactions having already been completed. The waste department also instituted a big change by overhauling the previously separated recyclables into one, new “Mixed Recyclables” category, alleviating much of the time previously spent on separating recyclables.
September was a month of change and anticipation for things to come. The fruit of many departments’ hard work and preparation over the last month will now be seen as mainbody gets underway.
By Max Spitzer, McMurdo Correspondent