Dec 9 – Oh joy!

December 10, 2009

Today was a feast for the senses. We began the day by an excellent breakfast served at our Bed and Breakfast. Fresh tomatoes, eggs and fruit have never given me more pleasure. Peter flew back today morning. He had suggested visiting Riccarton Bush, an old growth forest in the middle of Christchurch. Chris, Kristof and I took a leisurely walk down there. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The trees, bushes, bugs and birds were a pleasure to the eyes, the wind and warm sun a pleasure to feel, the varied bird sounds a pleasure to the ears, the forest smells a pleasure to the nose, and the excellent food in the cafe a pleasure to the sense of taste.

I am at a loss of words to express how great it was to be there, after almost 2 months of not seeing a single plant or animal life form.

Myself and Chris entering Riccarton Bush.

Kristof at the beginning of the forest trail.


600 years old Kahikatea trees.

Kristof smelling the roses.

Dec 8 – Last day!

December 10, 2009

Peter, Chris, Kristof and I fly to Christchurch today in a c-17. Rest of the team flies out on the 11th after finishing packing and shipping the robot to the U.S.

I have been ready to leave now that everything I needed to do is done. However, I woke up in the morning feeling rather sad. I have met many interesting, intelligent, eccentric, and wonderful people here, had many interesting conversations and discussions, learned something useful from everyone I met, and now I may never meet many of these people again.

Emma came to see us off at the "terminal".

A Terrabus drove us the airfield.

The C-17 lands.

We had to wait out in the snow for more than an hour while cargo was being unloaded from the C-17. We passed the time by napping (Chris in this photo) and playing Euchre (a card game Peter taught us).

Dec 5 – Bittersweet goodbye to the dry valleys and party in “town”

December 10, 2009

We flew into McMurdo today. I was both relieved and sad to leave Lake Bonney. I have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life in the past 40 days at Bonney. I struggled through being sick and cold when I arrived; the team worked its way through a myriad of problems; the end result was a very successful season whose accomplishments exceeded all expectations. I have formed a strange kind of attachment with the lake and the valley and it made me sad to think that I may never be here again. However, I was relieved to leave – no more being cold all the time, eating bread and cheese for lunch every day, working 14-17 hour days, peeing in a bottle and pooping in a stinky bucket.

We got together in the evening to celebrate. Below is picture (thanks to Maciej and Rachel).

Starting from left, going clockwise - Jim, Emma (hidden behind Jim), Rachel, myself, Peter, Chris, Maciej, and Kristof.

At Lake Bonney

October 28, 2009

Finally the weather cleared and the entire team had reached Bonney. We flew to help with the Bot-house construction at West Lake Bonney. The Bot-house is up and the carpenters are setting up the electricity and propane heating today. We took the morning off to fix up the stuff in our tent, and clean-up the East Lake Bonney living area.

It was a pretty miserable day for me yesterday.  The rooms at McMurdo are not cleaned for ages. In the process of vacuuming the room, I inhaled some dust that resulted in throat inflammation and trouble breathing. Getting sick in McMurdo is almost a right of passage – that’s what happens with 6 people per dorm room, multiple changing room-mates, almost  1000 people packed in small area, and hardly any cleaning of dorm rooms.

Anyway,  I hardly got any sleep the night before last, and then took the helo flight to Lake Bonney, and was out working (or at least trying to work) in the cold and it was pretty miserable. I did manage to stay warm and sleep well in my tent last night. I am much better today, though my voice is almost gone and I still feel a bit fatigued. Bill says that this is an adjustment phase and I will feel fine soon.

Vickie, Chris and Rachel getting ready for the helo flight to Bonney.

Vickie, Chris and Rachel getting ready for the flight to Bonney.

Chris and I in the helicopter.

Chris and I in the helicopter during flight.


View during flight to Bonney.


East Lake Bonney camp. This will be our home for the next 5 weeks.


Myself in front of the Bot-house which is being set-up by the carps (for the most part) with Bill's supervision.


Chris, Bart (on the stairs) and Kristof setting up part of the Bot-house.


Some of our cargo (the robot's batteries) being unloaded from a helicopter).


A helicopter flying a sling load. Background is Taylor glacier.


One of our ATVs ran out of fuel on the way to Bonney camp from Bot-house. This is about 12 min at about 10 mph.The other ATV had to run back to Bot-house to get fuel.

At Auckland aiport

October 17, 2009

I am at Auckland, NZ airport, drinking some nice coffee and relaxing. I am not seasoned enough at international travel to not feel somewhat anxious about immigration, customs, connecting flights and the like. Most of that is over now.

The pace of things appears slower (to me) here. Store managers and the officers at security checkpoint also appear more relaxed. One of the reasons may be that it is Sunday morning, and there are relatively few passengers on domestic flights.  I ended up chatting with a woman from Fiji who works here, and she says that she finds that pace very fast compared to Fiji !

I will reach Christchurch around 10:30 a.m. (Christchurch time). Then I will go to my hotel and come back to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) center at the airport for Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing issue.

In Christchurch

January 6, 2009

Dec 31

I reached Christchurch today after an 8 hour flight in a C-130. Chris and Kristof got bumped. I still haven’t figured out why they got bumped when a C-130 was flying and not a Hercules. Pictures in some time. The things I noticed when I got out of the plane and walked outside were (in that order)

  1. The breeze.
  2. The warmth.
  3. The birds flying in the sky and bird sounds.
  4. Trees and grass.

A wonderful meeting

November 26, 2008

Nov 23

Sunday is off-day here. We took it a little easy, and worked a few hours packing up and weighing stuff. It will be taken to the helo-pad either tomorrow or Tuesday.

The highlight of the day for me was that Robin introduced me to wildlife filmmakers Doug Allan and Neil Lucas during brunch. They are here to film weddell seals and invertebrates for the BBC series “Life” (name might get changed) which will likely be released next year. We chatted for about 15 minutes and I was impressed by the humility and accessibility of these guys despite the incredible work they have done. I mentioned my favorite scene in the “Planet Earth” series – that of a mother polar bear with two cubs, and it turned out that Doug himself had shot the scene! Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled.

I ran into them a couple more times, but did not have my camera with me. I will try to take pictures if I run into them again. It is a good idea to always carry a camera here.

Peter and Bill presented the ENDURANCE project as part of the Science Lecture series tonight. There was a fair crowd and people were very interested. The lecture lasted about an hour and there were many questions from people. It allowed me to step back for a moment and think of the scientific implications of our project.