We Blogged It!

Are We There Yet??

01/15/2011, 7:39 PM by Lollie Garay
Thick ice in McMurdo Sound delays the NBP arrival.<br/><br/>Credit: Lollie Garay(PolarTREC 2007)Courtesy of ARCUS
Thick ice in McMurdo Sound delays the NBP arrival.
Photo Credit: Lollie Garay(PolarTREC 2007)Courtesy of ARCUS


77° 45.9'S, 166° 16.1'E

Sunday, Jan 16, 10:00 AM (Ship is on NZ time)

(January 15 21:00 GMT


My eighth graders were all smiles yesterday morning as they “talked to Antarctica”! Actually, it was Chief Tish on the phone from the NBP, and it was great to hear her voice ☺

She spent time answering student questions, and then gave us an update on their game plan. They were set to meet the Oden in the turning basin in McMurdo Sound today (Sat. in the US). Swedish scientists on the NBP needed to switch their cargo over to the Oden for transport back to Sweden. US cargo will be unloaded and shipped through McMurdo for estimated arrival back home in 3 months. It’s a huge, labor-intensive job to pack and disembark the precious cargo of samples, and usually takes quite a few hours to complete.

Tish explained that after the offloading is complete, there is still the “bag drag” before they board a proposed 2AM flight to New Zealand. The bag drag is where all the personal baggage and the passengers are weighed to determine the total weight of the cargo and people on the transport plane. You and your bags are weighed together ☺

I asked why the flight was so early, and Tish said that the runways have been melting during the day, so for safety reasons flights are being re-scheduled for “night” when its colder. (Remember that they are still in 24 hrs of daylight). The runways near Scott Base are on the fast ice and are always being moved around.

However, an email today describes a snag in the plans! Tish writes:

“The fast ice near McMurdo has proven too tough for even the Oden.  We are delayed, sitting still (about 7 nm from McMurdo), waiting for the Oden to finish cutting a channel through 2+ m-thick ice.  Oden, along with all her scientists and crew, are about 5 nm from McMurdo. We can see them in the distance.  We can also see Ob Hill and a few other sights of McMurdo - so it's maddening to know we are so close and yet so far.”

Apparently the Oden is two days behind schedule in getting to the ice pier at McMurdo. Flights to New Zealand are scheduled for tomorrow mid-day, and it’s possible they can still fly out. If they can’t get to the pier and remain stuck in the ice, the may have to be flown by helicopter to McMurdo to make their flights. 

By now, everyone is ready to go home, so the unexpected delays weigh on the spirits. On the upside, Tish says “We have seen orcas and lots of seals and penguins, … so that was exciting.  The whales followed us into the channel.  Lots of Skuas too.” 

Let’s hope the next post celebrates the return home ☺





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Question of the Day

  • What are Polynyas and why are they important to study?

    Polynyas, are recurring areas of seasonally open water surrounded by ice.

    Energy and material transfer between the atmosphere, polar surface ocean, and the deep sea in polynas provide polar ecosystems with just the right ingredients needed for high productivity and intense biogeochemical recycling.

    Polynyas may be the key to understanding the future of Polar Regions since their extent is expected to increase with anthropogenic warming.