My time here at McMurdo is winding down. It's currently early Tuesday morning, and I should be leaving Wednesday afternoon. I'm currently doing laundry so I have a full compliment of clean clothes for the rest of the trip. Later today (after sleeping) I have to clean my room, as I have a room inspection at 3:oo PM. Rooms need to be cleaned to specifications before leaving. If one is an employee of Raytheon or a contractor, bonuses can be revoked. With grantees, some kind of repercussion comes as the PI is notified. Whatever, I generally enjoy cleaning so I have no problem working on that tomorrow, the room doesn't need that much attention anyways. Then at 8:30 PM, I have to "bag drag." This involves taking my checked luggage, carry-on luggage, and ECW gear (basically everything) up to the MCC (movement control center) to have it weighed for the flight. I'll have to turn in my checked luggage so it can be palletized in preparation for the flight the next day. It just requires some careful packing of the carry on luggage. Luckily I will be on a C-17 for the trip back, instead of the C-130. I was on a C-17 both ways back in 2006, and it is luxurious compared to the C-130, plus three hours less travel time. There are 70 people listed on the manifest, which is much lower than the 116 and 125 that went on the last two flights. I am one of the few NSF people on the manifest, most are employees clearing out for the season. Most of the other science people have already left. The station closes for the summer season on February 23rd. It has been feeling like winter the past several days. Temperatures have been struggling to get to 20 F, the wind has picked up, and it's getting darker at "night."
On to the subjects of this post. First, my trip to Ford Rock last Saturday. One of the forecasters, Trish, has been trying to set me up on the trip with the met. techs to this AWS site. This is not a Wisconsin AWS site, rather this is one of the sites run by SPAWAR, the group that handles the weather forecasting and other logistical operations here. They are in some way affiliated with the Navy. It's not competition or anything, the AWS's are in different location and have different uses. All of the data is shared, and all of it archived on the AMRC's website. Anyways, we had a nice morning for the hour or so ride out there in a truck with tracked wheels. For those of you familiar with the area (a few of you), it's just past Castle Rock up the peninsula. It was quite blustery and cold up there. The two techs had to swap out a temperature sensor, so they worked on that while me and one of the observers also along for the ride took pictures of each other and the scenery. It was high enough and away from other terrain features so that we could see the open water to the north, and the mountains along McMurdo Sound. To the south, it's snow and ice as far as one can see, blending into the sky. It's also a closer picture to Mt. Erebus. Here are some pictures from that morning: to the east, the open water to the north, back towards McMurdo, and me in front of Mt. Erebus:
The time out there was under an hour, then we rode back to McMurdo. Another nice junket out of town for a few hours.
Then on Sunday, I went with the observer on duty (Carol) to launch a weather balloon. These are launched everywhere at 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC every day. At McMurdo we are on NZDT, which is UTC+13, so 1 PM and 1 AM (actually a little earlier, the data should be in about that time). They moved the location of the launch, and we had to drive over there. Here are some pictures from the setup and launch of the balloon:
Sunday was my birthday, so I got to launch a weather balloon on my birthday! Here is the skew-t of the sounding:
Additionally, the launch area is down by the ice pier, so I got good shots of the winter resupply ship, M/V American Tern, and the icebreaker Oden leaving port to clear the channel. The ships left earlier today.