Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sorry it has been so long since my last blog.  I’ll try to do better.

It looks as though we will be switching to a different airport here in the next week or so.  The airport we have been using, Ice Runway, is built about a mile from McMurdo Station.  The close proximity to town makes commuting easy for everyone working at the airport.  Hauling cargo, people, and food back and forth is efficient.  The airport we will be moving to, Pegasus, is between seven and ten miles from town, depending on which road is available.  It typically takes 30 to 60 minutes of travel time to get from the airport to the town.  Varying road and weather conditions are the determining factors for the commute times (traffic jams aren’t a problem).  Providing utilities (power, heating, water, etc) also becomes more of a problem with the greater distance.

So, why move?  Ice Runway is constructed on non-permanent sea ice in McMurdo Sound.  Even though it has been years since open water has reached McMurdo, the ice typically becomes too unstable every year in early to mid December to support airport operations.  The thickness of the ice at Ice Runway has reduced from approximately 15 feet in mid October to approximately 6 feet at the present time.  Numerous cracks and depressions are starting to appear.  The C-17, which is the largest aircraft to land here, has been forced to reduce their cargo load in response to the deteriorating ice.  Pegasus is also built on the frozen sea, but it is on the permanent ice shelf.  I’ve heard that the thickness of the ice at Pegasus is between 500 and 1000 feet thick.

We are all hoping for the open sea to reach the town.  Numerous McMurdo veterans seem to think the conditions are ripe for that to happen.  The open water will bring lots of whales, among other wildlife, within viewing distance of town.  Wish for a storm from the north, which will bring warmer air and rough seas.  This will precipitate a weakening of the ice pack.  Follow that up with a windstorm from the south, which will, hopefully, blow out the ice from McMurdo Sound to the open sea.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on Saturday down here.  The aim is to get as many people as possible off for a two-day weekend.   I’ve heard the galley puts on a pretty good feast.  We will soon find out.

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