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13 November, 2000

Getting Around Antarctica

Getting around on the continent usually involves flying. We came from New Zealand on a C-141. This is a large jet transport used to move people and cargo to and from McMurdo Station. On Thursday we are scheduled to fly to our field camp at Siple Dome, a distance of about 600 miles. We will go on an LC-130 Hercules. The Herc is a propeller plane, equipped with skis, that can take large loads over long distances. A small plane called a Twin Otter is used for small numbers of people with limited cargo. Researchers often rely on this plane to take them to more remote locations. McMurdo Station also has a busy helo pad. Helicopters are used extensively for travel within 200 miles of the station.

The weather has changed today. It is snowing lightly and the visibility is limited. The flights from New Zealand have been cancelled for that reason.

Communications is another variable that can affect travel in Antarctica. Pilots require reliable communications with the ground. Last week radio communications throughout Antarctica were seriously disrupted. This was due to a large solar storm that occurred on November 8th. This event was the fourth largest since 1976. It knocked out high frequency radio communications for several days. Communications have improved but now the weather is bad for flying.

I will be going to a snow survival training course over the next two days. We will be out away from the station so I won't be posting a journal. I will try to get another one out before we go to Siple Dome. Once there, I won't have access to the internet. I may be able to get journals out occasionally if I can send them out with flight crews who may stop at the field camp.

Out on the sea ice in the far distance is a row of five LC-130 "Hercs."

The helicopters are grounded today due to the weather.

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