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16 November, 2000

McMurdo Life

The weather has improved today but the flight schedule was readjusted so now we hope to leave tomorrow. I am ready for something new but the past week in McMurdo has been interesting.

McMurdo is definitely in Antarctica but when you are indoors that is easy to forget. We have been living in a windowless dorm room. There is a laundry room and TV lounge with a pool table down the hall. Downstairs is a large dining hall, store, barbershop, library, and computer room. Nearby are a coffee house, two bars, a chapel, and a recreation center with weight room, bowling lanes, and a gym. We have direct telephone lines to the U.S. along with internet and e-mail connections. There is a weekly newspaper and even a radio station.

What is amazing is that there is nothing here to support this town of over a thousand residents. All food, material, and fuel must be brought by plane or by ship. Later in the austral summer, when the sea ice begins to break up, an icebreaker will clear a lane to McMurdo so that a cargo ship and an oil tanker can reach the station.

Since all the fresh water here is frozen, the station's supply comes from McMurdo Sound. A desalinization facility removes the salt from the seawater.

McMurdo, like any town, produces a large amount of waste material. Both the Antarctic Treaty and the Antarctic Conservation Act contain strict regulations designed to protect the environment from pollution. McMurdo has an elaborate system of recycling and waste handling. Except for sewage, all waste is taken out by ship. That amounts to four million pounds a year! An impressive 65% of that waste is recycled.

In terms of wildlife, there just isn't much to be seen. The penguin rookeries are several miles north on Ross Island though they may wander this direction later in the season. Seals are occasionally seen lounging on the ice near Scott Base. The only life I have seen so far are skuas. These are large brown gulls that are notorious scavengers.

If our flight gets out tomorrow, this may be my last regular journal for awhile. There should be an entry every Monday. Daily journals may come out in bunches. There are other TEAs involved in a variety of projects around Antarctica. I hope you can join in on their adventures.

These skuas visited our snow school camp looking for handouts.

Recycling containers are found throughout the station both indoors and out.

Seawater is pumped from McMurdo Sound. The yellow building is the water plant where salt is removed. The water is then sent through large pipes to all the buildings of the station.

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