I arrived at McMurdo station yesterday, a gorgeous, sunny day. We flew over an endless expanse of pack ice – floes of all shapes and sizes pushed up against each other on a flat, steely ocean. Then it was mountains, and glaciers flowing from the frozen peaks into the frozen sea, and more pack ice along the coast. We landed the giant cargo plane on the immense flat whiteness of the Ross Ice Shelf, ringed by mountains and volcanoes, with the sun moving horizontally across a truly blue sky.
McMurdo is packed to the gill – 1,100 people are here at the moment! Yet, despite so many people crowded into a small place, the town is still dwarfed by the immensity of the surrounding landscape, a tiny human speck in a place that defies all human scales. Here there is space to be, and anything superfluous becomes obvious and easy to cast aside. Life is so scarce at first glance that any evidence of it (a seal sleeping on the ice, a lichen, a sea creature showing off its bright pigments under the sea ice) is awe-inspiring, an admirable force ready for action against all odds.
I’m supposed to fly to Cape Crozier tomorrow but it’s snowing like crazy. I spoke to Grant via satellite phone and he said that our tent is completely buried in big, fluffy snow. We haven’t seen each other in 5 weeks and I’m itching to get there, but in typical Antarctic fashion the weather may very well keep up apart for another few days. I’m not generally superstitious, but I swear that the more you care about getting somewhere around here the greater the chances that bad weather will keep you put. It’s a harsh continent, as locals are fond of reminding each other. If all goes well, I’ll be at Cape Crozier withing the next 1-5 days.
On a totally different note, I just got word that Amelie and Valere, who were at Crozier with us last year, just had a baby boy. Congratulations you two! You hatched before the penguins chicks. We’ll be sure to consume lots of chocolate crepes in your honor.
Off to the wine bar!