We are now fully packed and our mobile research sled is ready to go. We are waiting for some final repairs on the Pisten-Bully which will pull our supply sled. The mobile laboratory sled will be pulled by the Sno-Cat Tucker, which also has cab space for six (riding in the mobile lab would probably be too bouncy). At 8:30 this morning I went to the Berg Field Center (BFC) to plan out all the food for the expedition. The BFC is well stocked, and I I was able to find lots of high energy food: pasta and sauces, rice pilaf, couscous. I also went heavy on the snacks, as you can't have too many calories when you are living on the sea-ice: cookies, crackers, granola, Cadbury bars, energy bars, gorp, you name it! Most importantly I picked up a bunch of hot drinks and instant soups, as a cup of tea or a bowl of soup can really make a difference in keeping you warm.
After packaging all of our food I went over to the equipment loft and picked up extra camping equipment. We will be sleeping on the ice, so I grabbed some extra mattress pads, and also found some low-profile tents which (hopefully) won't blow away in the wind. The equipment area really is an oasis: the staff are super organized and friendly, and there is always great music playing. And it smells of wood (most of McMurdo Station generally smells more like machinery).
As I was leaving the Berg Field Center I saw a pile of old Nansen Sleds. I always associated Fridjof Nansen with the Nansen Bottle, which is arguably one of the key inventions of modern oceanography - I didn't know about the sled. Nansen was a colorful explorer and inventor, and his Wikipedia entry is well worth a read. Unfortunately we won't be using the Nansen sleds... maybe next trip.
Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent running errands around McMurdo, or 'Mac-town': I filled our water carboys, went to the gas station and filled 10 jerry-cans with 50 gallons of fuel, and shuttled science gear down to the sled using a borrowed truck. I'm getting to know McMurdo better, and by walking around so much, I find all kinds of interesting places. On the right is the McMurdo Coffee House, the only place in town to get an espresso. The coffee house is a great place to come in from the cold, especially when you are waiting for the science delivery truck to free up so you can borrow it again.
McMurdo has all kinds of amenities: there is a radio station, a barber shop, a store, two bars, library and a post office. There is a church (pictured on the left), a gym, and there was even a bowling alley (it was structurally unsound and had to be closed). For entertainment there are classes, clubs, and movie nights. Every Wednesday and Sunday there is a science lecture series, and anyone can go and hear about all of the interesting science which goes on in Antarctica.
Well, I will sign off for now. Tomorrow morning we will begin our trek across the ice, and I should get some sleep and be fresh for the day. Our router and internet antenna were installed this afternoon, so my next posting should be from somewhere on the McMurdo Sound sea ice. Tomorrow's forecast: mid-teens, light snow, reduced winds. Great weather for phytoplankton research!