20 November, 2002
Welcome to Byrd Surface Camp.
Time of Log: 10:30 p.m. local time
Latitude: 120 degrees West
Longitude: 80 degrees South
Temperature: -13 C / +9 F
Wind speed: not given
Wind Chill: not given
Wind direction: not given
Meters of ice collected: 0
We were all rudely awaken this morning at 6:20 by phone calls, letting us know we'd better be at Hill Cargo (the check in "terminal" for flights out of McMurdo) at 7:00 a.m. We knew there was a real chance we'd leave McMurdo today, but most of us expected we would get have a leisurely breakfast and do our check-in at 9:15. No such luck. After rushing around a bit to make sure that everyone was up, we wolfed down a quick breakfast in Building 155 (the Galley) and carried our bags up the hill. Dan was the big hero for waking up Markus, Steve, Blue and Gordon, who hadn't received a phone call and were happily unaware they had to get packed and out the door. We were driven out to the sea ice runway and got a chance for a second, slightly more leisurely snack in the airport galley (fresh eggs and sausage!), before heading out to the C-130 (flight number T-009). We were in the air very fast and headed out over the Ross Ice Shelf. There wasn't a lot to see: most of the mountain scenery was either behind us or further to the north than most direct route to our destination: Byrd Surface Camp: 120 degrees West, 80 degrees South, central West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Byrd Surface Camp is called that because the original Byrd Station, set up in 1957, is buried under the snow. Although expensive equipment was of course removed, many of the original Korean-war vintage Jamesway shelters are still there, perhaps 50 feet down. The last time anyone went in was a few years ago, and they found it rather spooky: while they could walk around in the buildings, the ceilings were gradually caving in under the weight of the snow. It is unlikely that anyone will go in again, and it will be 100,000 years or more before these relics of the International Geophysical Year, crushed by the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet, are brought into the Ross Sea.
The flight was uneventful, and more or less the same arrangement as our flight down from Christchurch: red webbing benches that fold down from the side of the plane. Landing was a bit more exciting though. When the C-130s land in the field, they open the back door and slide the cargo out as they taxi down the runway. All you can see as you look out of the plane is a swirling white cloud of snow. Once the plane stopped, we got out through the back, and the folks at Byrd (Andrea, Karl, Lynn and Kirk) drove out to meet us. We all worked together to get the cargo, loaded onto metal pallets, back to camp.
For some of us, this was the first trip to anywhere in Antarctic outside McMurdo Station and Cape Royds. For others, Byrd is an old friend. The past three US ITASE traverses both started and ended here. When we arrived it was quite warm by Antarctic standards: about minus 13 degrees Celsius; overcast but with some sun breaks here and there. It had been snowing over the last few days and there was about 30 cm of fresh, fluffy snow. Perfect skiing conditions no doubt. Eric, Markus and Betsy all said it reminded them of Summit, Greenland, where they spent about a month together last year. We all expect it will become much colder, and the snow quite a bit harder, as we traverse towards South Pole.
We spent the afternoon unpacking the gear that had been dropped off the back of the airplane as we taxied down the runway after landing. After a wonderful meal cooked by Andrea, who will be accompanying the traverse and keeping us well fed, we were all ready for bed.
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