1 November, 2004
Although I am a teacher, I don't teach school at McMurdo Station (we call it MacTown around here) because there are no schools or kids here. Everyone here is either a scientist or, like me, they work to support scientists. There are lots of science research projects underway and many countries operate research stations in other parts of Antarctica. Some scientists are studying penguins, some are studying seals, some are studying glaciers, some are studying the earth's ozone layer high in the sky, some are studying really strange stuff like neutrinos and muons, and well, other scientists are studying many, many more things!
There are about 160 scientists and research assistants working at MacTown. Another 790 people work in support jobs, like me. My job is to provide transportation to the scientists and support staff who live and work here. That means I drive different types of machines to transport people around our small town. Below is a picture of me standing beside one of the machines I drive. It is called "Ivan the Terra Bus" and it is huge! I have to climb a ladder to get inside. Once I get inside and start the engine, I can open a door on the other side and lower a stairway so that my passengers can enter easily. I can transport about 50 people in Ivan between MacTown and the Ice Runway, where airplanes land with supplies.
The Ice Runway is really cool...it floats on the Ross Sea! The ice is about 6-12 feet thick and usually has some snow on top of it. Where the wind has blown the snow away, it is a beautiful powder blue color. Below the ice there is 600 feet of water! Below is a picture of one of the LC-130 airplanes used to fly cargo to field camps where scientists are working at field camps, far away from MacTown. Notice that it has both skis and wheels. It can land on the hard surface of the Ice Runway at McMurdo with wheels, but on the soft snow at the South Pole and at the remote field camps, it can use the skis!
Another airplane used in Antarctica is called a Twin Otter, and there are four of these stationed at MacTown. Twin Otters fly scientists to remote places. It can also carry scientific instruments that "look" at Antarctica to gather information on all kinds of things like ice sheet thickness and magnetism. We also have helicopters in McMurdo and they are very busy this time of year hauling equipment and scientists to field camps, weather stations and other places where airplanes cannot land.
Most of the research happens during the Antarctic summer, from October to February. It is winter in the northern hemisphere at this time, but it is summer down here. The sun never sets during the summer here - there are 24-hours of sunshine! During the summer, the temperatures are much warmer and MacTown is a very busy place with helicopters, small planes, and big planes taking off and landing all the time. In January, a supply ship will arrive in MacTown if the icebreakers can make a path through the ice. See the picture of an icebreaker that came last year that my co-worker CJ Tuepker took. Notice the Adelie penguins approaching the ship; they are such curious creatures! I hope to see this ship for myself in January.
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