Thursday, April 28, 2011

At last I go home

We finally arrived in Punta Arenas at 18:00 hours on April 23rd, two days ahead of schedule. Land was a wonderful sight to behold. The transit across the Drake’s passage was a bit rough but the ship rode well. We were also able to conduct the crossing ceremony. This was the first time I ever helped to plan it. Under the circumstances I think it turned out well. I think the most exciting part of our transit to Punta Arenas, at least for me was when I got to drive the ship! It is not as easy as it sounds. You really need a feel for it when adjusting the rudders. I tended to over compensate for the heading. But it was A LOT of fun and I learned some new things.

For a while now I have been debating on whether I would participate in a long cruise such as this ever again. During the cruise I could only think 'Heck no!' but now I am not so sure. I did have a good time, met great people and hopefully collected a nice set of samples. It was good experience and also a great challenge. Depending on the circumstances I would probably do it again. The crew, the mates, the Raytheon folks, everyone was fantastic. We had great support. If there was any ship on which I would participate in a 70 day cruise, the Palmer is the best.

I head to the airport in about an hour. I have about 24 hours of traveling ahead of me. I always get really anxious before I travel, particularly in unfamiliar territory. I am ready to be home. Yay! I hope everyone enjoyed the blog as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ice Party '11

I told you I would publish pictures of the ice party, and I live up to my
word. Honestly there isn't a whole lot to say about it. It was nice to
get out onto 'solid ground' even if it was only for a couple of hours. It
was a bit cold too! I was disappointed, however, because no penguins
showed up! What is up with that? The last 3 ice parties I have attended,
penguins have made their presence known. Ah well. Some people played
soccer, Frisbee and football. Others just spent time tackling each other
in the snow. It was good exercise for all! I hope you enjoy the pictures.

On a side note, after a nail biting final round, I am officially the winner
of the CLIVAR Cribbage Tournament. Pretty good for a novice, I think. It
was a nice morale booster, indeed!

More to come in the next blog!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ice, seals and more seals

We spent a couple of days transiting south to the ice shelf in order to
reach the beginning of a sampling line called P18S, which is an arbitrary
name for one of the CLIVAR program's sampling lines (Pacific 18 South).
We had to travel through ice to get there, some of which was pretty thick
with snow. The fun aspect of traveling through the ice is the chance to
see macrofauna, as I am sure I have mentioned before. I didn't get to
see any penguins up close except for a couple of emperors swimming. We
did, however see lots and lots of seals. I believe they are Weddell seals.
Of course, the process of cutting through ice is also an experience.
Unfortunately we didn't get very far. The ice/snow was just too thick
for this vessel. Also, a larger amount of fuel is consumed during this
process. We must, of course, conserve enough to get to Punta Arenas. The
ship's crew and captain are very diligent about budgeting fuel, so this
is not a true concern.

Right now we are headed back to the 67º South like and continue east
towards our final destination of Punta Arenas (only 2 weeks away!). We
will also be holding a crossing ceremony at the end of the line. The
crossing ceremony is a way of 'celebrating' when fresh meat, I mean,
people have crossed one of the circles, i.e., the Arctic, Equator or
Antarctic, for the first time. I have already crossed the Antarctic Circle
so I will be part of the act. It should be a lot of fun. I will fill you
in later about that. Oh, and we also had a little ice floe party while we
were in the ice. It was nice to get out onto 'solid' ground and have a
little fun. I will share those pictures in a later blog.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day brought about an interesting turn of events. The night
watch, a group that appears to be very creative, decided to pull a few
pranks for April Fool's day. As I exited my room that morning, on my way
to the gym, I happened to notice an out-of-place sign above the MPC office
door, picture number one or 'Starbuzz'. I knew it wasn't there the night
before. The back-story of this sign stems from the unlimited lattes that
flow from that office, of which I also partake. I now make my own lattes,
although for some reason they taste better when someone makes them for me.
Also, I am still working on my foaming-skills. The 'Buzz All Weather'
latte, in particular, I consume at least once a day (see picture two).
Although, I am very curious about the 'Buzz Bomb.' Sound delish!
There is another back-story for the third picture ('beware of the honey
bears'). The ET on the ship has a phobia about honey bears on ships; he
believes they bring bad luck (I thought it was women on ships who brought
bad luck. Huh.) He will remove the honey bears from the table he sits at
in the mess hall. So, some people decided to collect all of the empty
bears and make a sort of shrine. I thought it was very amusing. This is
what people do when they are bored. It keeps morale at a somewhat elevated
level. There were a few others that I cannot share here (or for which I do
not have photographic evidence).



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A close encounter of the whale kind

We had another close encounter to Humpback whales a couple of days ago.
Actually they got a lot closer to the ship than the first time around. I
woke up the other morning and heard someone outside my door says something
about whales. I was just about to go to the gym but decided I should check
out the whale sighting first. It was a very calm day out. The seas were
almost glassy, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. I went out to
the stern and saw at least 2 whales, not all that close, playing in the
distance. I watched for a bit and then proceeded to the gym. We were on
station. The cast was coming up in a couple of hours, and I needed to
start my day. I did my thing in the gym and when I returned to my room I
decided to grab my camera and take some pictures of the beautiful day
outside. Little did I know that the whales were still hanging out around
the ship. They had been around for at least 2-3 hours now. The were
closer to the stern, I was near the bow. As I stood there taking pictures
they slowly swam towards me. I could hear them making noises, both vocal
sounds and the noise of the water passing through their blow holes. It was
amazing. I don't think I have ever been so close to whales before. The
water was glassy and clear enough that I could see the rest of their bodies
under the water. It was a very cool experience. Hope you enjoy the



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Where I spend most of my time

I decided after I posted the last blog that I should elaborate on what I
was doing. In the picture I posted last time of me sampling from the CTD I
was collecting samples for CDOM or chromophoric dissolved organic matter.
According to the literature, it is an 'optically active component of DOM
that plays a critical role in carbon cycling' (Du et al 2010; Coble,
2007). This material can influence how light travels through the water
column and, therefore, can affect the growth of aquatic organisms, such as
phytoplankton. Because CDOM is a component of the global carbon budget, it
is important to monitor the abundance and composition in the water column.
I collect 18 samples/day for CDOM (60 ml/sample) and filter each sample
through the glass filter set up I have pictured here. This usually takes
about 2-3 hours to complete, including collection from the rosette.

I spend almost 12 hours a day in a room that is called the wet lab. It is
called this for a reason. During stormy seas, if the watertight doors are
not sealed completely, water enters the room with every wave. One of these
days I might be washed away! During most of this time I am working on the
wooden filter rig, seen in the second picture. At least once a day I
collect almost 20 L of surface water from the underway seawater system and
filter almost all of it, particularly when we are in low biomass waters
(like we are today). When water is available from the rosette, I try to
take water column profile samples, at least for phytoplankton pigments. I
require a lot of water for the various parameters I collect and the Niskin
bottles only hold 10 liters. I keep the room somewhat cool to protect the
samples and so that the heaters do not blow dust or other unwanted
materials into my samples.

Today the sun finally decided to show its face! Although we are no longer
in the ice, the sun and calmer seas make for a wonderful day. We are still
in the process of working our way back north towards the 67S line. After
we finish this transect on the 170W line, we will steam for 2 days (approx
10 knots/hour) to get to the aforementioned line. We will continue our
travel west towards Chile.

Ship fever has set in a bit. However, the morale team has come through and
at least 2 activities are being planned for the future. One activity that
was announced today is a murder mystery game. I have never heard of this
game but apparently everyone draws a card (regular playing card) and
whoever draws the Queen of Spades is the 'murderer.' That person, with
some reasonable restrictions, can go around (discretely) and 'murder'
people by showing their card. Those who are not the murderer can try to
guess who it is and confront that person. If they are correct, then he/she
becomes the murderer. If the accusation is false, the accuser dies
automatically. Sounds amusing, right? Also, we still have a second round
of Cribbage. Not sure if I have advanced to the second round yet but, to
be honest, I am somewhat over the whole thing.

Chow for now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weather days and moorings

I know it has been a while since I posted anything. I do have an excuse,
though. We were without email connectivity for about 4 days and prior to
that we had been limited to small email sizes. The ship had sailed into a
virtual dead zone between satellites. Yet, I was confused as to why we
could not receive or send email, but still had satellite phone
connectivity. I learned that the email and phone connect to 2 different
satellites, inmarsat and iridium, respectively. The iridium satellite
follows a different, more frequent orbital pattern so that it covers more
area than the inmarsat. So, mystery solved!

In other news we have spent the last 4 days recovering moorings. These 2
moorings had been deployed at least one year ago. They were anchored to
the sea floor, their buoyancy system allowing them to be suspended at a
chosen depth in the water column. The moorings consist of instruments that
measure water current, as well as conductivity, temperature and pressure
(i.e., depth; CTD). The moorings are remotely released from the anchor
and, once they reach the surface, have to be located the old-fashioned
way-with binoculars and keen eyes. The floats attached to the mooring are
typically a bright color; these were bright orange and one even had a light
beacon. The prize was a bottle of Chilean wine, to be purchased in Punta
Arenas, for whoever saw the mooring first. We had some weather delays so
the recovery took longer than anticipated. Both moorings were located and
instruments accounted for. Success! I would highly recommend going to the
following blog website:
Juan Botella has provided a nice video and other information about the
mooring recovery.

On a side note I have never been on a cruise that has experienced so many
weather delays. Of course I have never sailed in the Southern Ocean this
late in the season. If I ever write a proposal to support fieldwork in the
Southern Ocean, I will make sure it doesn't occur so close to winter!

We started a new transect yesterday, but more weather delays have been a
problem. We are pretty far south, 74 degrees south latitude. We are
making a diagonal transect in a northeasterly direction away from the
continent and towards the continuation of our 67 south latitude line.

I have kept myself busy during the down time by knitting and working on
other work-related projects that I brought with me. I have also watched
some movies and TV shows, such as 'Castle' and 'Flight of the
Conchords.' Actually, in the picture I have attached, I am wearing the
hat that I completed on this cruise. Turned out pretty well, I think!

I believe that is all for now. I don't usually like to have pictures of
me, but thought I would at least provide 1 in this blog. Hopefully, now
that we are doing our science again, something a little more interesting
will happen.


Friday, March 18, 2011

St Patrick's Day=Groundhog's day

Today was a very relaxing day. We actually had a day off from science as
we head back west to hit another transect. Because we are headed back west
we crossed the dateline for the second time and, therefore, we repeated
March 17 or St Patrick's day. Not only do we have a day off but we have
been privileged with a beautiful scenery of ice, a sunny day with blue
skies (but really, really cold!) and many sightings of penguins. I just
looked out the window and, hello, there's a penguin. I also just enjoyed a
session of yoga with 5 other fellow scientists. Moreover, tonight is
'Chick flick night' where we are going to watch 'Sex in the City' episodes.
Days like these are good opportunities to socialize with your fellow
scientists. I know most days I am so wrapped up in sampling that I don't
take the time to really talk to others. You cannot make a ship an island,
meaning it is difficult to stay sane if you isolate yourself from others on
a research vessel. It can become very lonely and depressing. So, on such
days as these, take the time to get to know one another!

I am attaching a couple of photographs of penguins and a view of our bright
and sunny day!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cool iceberg

We have a pretty cool iceberg near our current station. Thought I would
share a couple of photos. The skies are pretty stormy looking, as you can
see but seas are calm enough. We are still heading south on 150W. We are
seeing more and more icebergs as we go. We will eventually get pretty
close to the ice shelf. An ice view always lifts everyone's spirits.
Also, where there is ice, there is a possibility of penguins! Everyone one
loves penguins!

Otherwise things are pretty uneventful here. We haven't seen much of clear
skies or the sun lately. But the weather has been decent so I can't
complain. There is definitely much more algae biomass in these parts,
which is good for me. But obviously, because of the clouds, I am not
getting much in MODIS-Aqua imagery except for some patches. However, the
images are good enough to give me an idea of what to expect,
chlorophyll-wise and, thus biomass-wise.

Chow for now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Whales off the starboard

I don't think I have ever moved any faster until I heard the words "whales
50ft off the starboard side!" I moved like a shot, grabbed my camera and
raced to the 01 deck. We finally saw some whales, almost up close and
personal. They appeared to be humpbacks. I think I got some decent shots,
although it is quite difficult to shoot a moving target. It appeared as if
they were playing or something. I think there were about 5 of them.
Anyway, pretty cool!

We are heading south again on the 150 deg W line. More icebergs and bergie
bits are visible now. The sight of ice really improves one's mood,
especially after all you have seen in a while is gray skies.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Aurora australis

Two nights ago we were blessed with a clear sky night, complete with
brilliant stars and the Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights. It was
just by chance I got to witness such a rare show. I was actually in bed
reading at about 11:30 at night and decided to check something in the lab.
I walked out the door of my stateroom and the MPC just happened to be
walking by and told me to follow him. He gave me his coat and went out on
the deck. And there it was, faint, but there. So we all ran up to the
deck aft of the bridge to get a better look. There were 2 patches of pale
green cloud on both the port and starboard side of the ship. It was light
but you could definitely see it. It kept fading in and out until, finally,
it was gone. Now, unfortunately I did not get any pictures. I am not sure
they would come out anyway. I was afraid if I left to get my camera I
would miss it. If we get to see it again, I will be sure to bring it with

During this whole time I was in my PJs at the time: polar bear fleece pants
(yes, polar bears. I was being ironic), tennis shoes without socks, and a
winter jacket. This was not the smartest idea. When I returned to my
stateroom I realized that I couldn't feel 3 of my toes on my right foot,
and they were whiter than normal. Of course I panicked. All I could think
was that I would have to be heloed off the ship, I would have to get my
toes amputated, etc. Ridiculous I know but this is what I do. I was
definitely showing the first signs of frost bite. In my panicked state of
mind, I did all of the wrong things to treat the frost bite: I rubbed them,
I stuck them on the heater and then I ran warm water on them. Bad Bad Bad.
Eventually the color returned and I could feel them again. And then, of
course, I felt really silly about panicking. The moral of this story is,
kiddies, always wear socks when you are in Antarctica.

So, since I don't have any recent pictures, I decided to post some
gratuitous ice photos I took earlier in the cruise. On a side note,
Cribbage tournament begins today. I am ready!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Iceberg sunset

Another day of non-science. Weather has deteriorated again, although the
ship is riding very well. Today I have done some work but, honestly, have
mostly payed cribbage and relaxed. I am getting better, I think. I have
my moments anyway. I don't expect to win the tournament but I would at
least like to hold my own.

People disappear on non-science days. It is amazing to me how difficult it
can be to find people in such a small space. But we all scatter and do our
own thing on days like this, such as watching movies, playing games or
maybe even sleeping.

Last night I was witness to one of the most amazing sunsets I have seen,
from which I am attaching a photo. It was nice to see some color before it
turned gray yet again.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Birds and 'Bergs

When you are pretty far away from land, or ice, the most entertainment you
will find is birds, 'bergs and an occasional seal. We are FINALLY
encountering some sunny days here after days of non-stop cloudiness and
storms (and 40-60 Kt winds). I have to make sure I pop outside every now
and then to breathe in some non re-circulated air. And, of course, clear
skies are good for satellite passovers.

Other than the icebergs, of which I am attaching photos, not a whole lot of
excitement has occurred here. My days have been very busy, filtering for
about 12 hours every day in one form or another. But busy is good because
it makes the day go faster.

Tonight was Mexican night (Yum!). I think I overstuffed myself a tad but
it was worth it beings I really didn't get any lunch. I have been
exercising every day so I give myself an excuse to overindulge every now
and then. I find that I am much more aware of my eating and exercising
patterns at sea. It is very easy to slip down that slope of not exercising
and eating every dessert in sight. Then I return home 20lbs heavier!

The waters are very blue here, meaning there isn't much activity in the
surface water. Most of the phytoplankton biomass is found approximately
64-85 meters below the surface, avoiding high light and probably taking
advantage of nutrients there.

Anyway, I think that is all for now. Other than work I am trying to learn
Cribbage. I have only played one other time in my life. It is a lot of
fun but lots of strategy involved. We have a tournament coming up so I
want to have a fair showing of my abilities.

By the way, can someone tell me what type of albatross this is?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Rough seas

I realize that I have not mentioned anything about the reason I am here in
the Southern Ocean. As part of the Calibration and Validation program at
NASA it is our job to ground truth data satellite products, such as from
MODIS-Aqua. These products include chlorophyll a, which is loosely
representative of phytoplankton biomass in the surface layer of the oceans.
As such, I collect biogeochemical samples that represent anything that
would influence the optical properties of the water: suspended particulate
matter, particulate organic carbon, colored dissolved organic matter,
particulate absorption, dissolved organic carbon, and phytoplankton
pigments. This involves a great dealing of filtering, which is like
watching for water to boil. Most sampling occurs from the subsurface but I
am getting profile samples, from the water column for pigments and CDOM.
Normally in our program we do not collect profile samples for pigments,
because we are primarily concerned with what MODIS-A 'sees', but I am
interested in phytoplankton community structure so, at my own accord,
decided to take profile samples. Unfortunately, I haven't seen much
biomass yet. The primary focus of this program called Climate Variability,
or, CLIVAR is chemistry and physics but I hoping to bring a biological

Today has been a non-science day. The winds were whipping up to 60kts and
the swell has made life difficult. I think King Neptune must be in a bad
mood. Thankfully this ship rides very well. I do not feel sick but have
been very sleepy and unproductive all day. We were not able to sample any
stations with the CTD rosette because of the weather. I did finish a book
on my Kindle and start a new one. That is my accomplishment for the day. Oh
yeah, and this blog entry. I am attaching a picture of the weather outside.
The picture was taken through the window of the bridge. There was no way I
was going outside!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch and update

I was, well we all were, saddened by the news about the earthquake that hit
Christchurch, NZ a little over a week after we left for McMurdo Station.
It is surreal to think that I was just there, walking through that
beautiful city. I will certainly cherish the pictures I have, especially
of the Cathedral, which was toppled yesterday. I am going to count my
blessings that we left in time. The people of Christchurch will be in my
thoughts and prayers.

On a different topic, today was the first day of science! We were supposed
to sample our first stations last night but we were hit with some
inconvenient weather: 15-25kt seas and 40kt winds. Needless to day it was
a bit rolley polley yesterday. But I am happy to report that I did not get
sick, although I was a bit sleepy, which is technically a symptom of sea
sickness. The captain took the ship further towards land, to the
protection of the ice, as a second low pressure system rolled through. We
resumed our first transect, the first station closest to the continent and
then moving outward, this morning. As a member of the calibration and
validation team of a satellite, these cloudy skies do me no good! Weather
has improved today though. All in all things have gone smoothly thus far.
Let's hope for clear skies!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leaving McMurdo

The days since my last post have been crazy. We were finally able to board the ship on the 17th at 13:00. The loading of the ship with our equipment from the containers to the ship, to my surprise, went very smoothly. We formed human chains, working together as a team to get all equipment on board. I was very impressed and happy with the teamwork. Unfortunately I did not get to set up in the laboratory I had originally planned on because the other group occupying space in that laboratory are analyzing samples for helium and tritium and, apparently, they use liters of isopropanol that are allowed to volatilize into the atmosphere. First of all I was unsure if large amounts of volatilized isopropanol would compromise my samples and, secondly, I didn’t want to breath in isopropanol vapors every day. Luckily there was plenty of space still available in the wet lab, which actually worked out better for my storage needs. We set sail yesterday and have been steaming towards our first station. We have a 10:45 meeting to discuss the sampling plan and Jim Swift, the chief scientist, will also give a brief explanation of the CLIVAR (Climate Variability) program. It seems the cruises associated with the program are primarily chemistry-oriented. My self and my colleague Emily represent, as far as I know, the only biological component. I don’t really have a solid sampling plan yet, although I have some ideas. I will keep you posted on what develops.

Prior to our departure, we did get an opportunity to visit Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic Station near McMurdo. Normally, scientists from other countries cannot visit the station unless they are invited. But, I guess they host an ‘American night’ once a week when McMurdo dwellers can at least visit the gift shop and the bar at the station. I also was forced to sing a little karaoke one night but I am going to try and forget that part. On a side note, we did get to see the sun 'sort of' set while we were still in McMurdo. It was a beautiful site.

We haven’t seen too much wildlife yet. We saw some penguins and seals in the distance but they were little dots in the distance. As we were leaving McMurdo, we did see some whales in the very distance. I did get a couple of pictures and you can see a teeny tiny dorsal fin above the water. But hey, it’s a whale. Right now we are in open water, so there is less of a chance to see wildlife. But I will keep you posted.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Notes from McMurdo Station

--The last few days in McMurdo represent our last minutes of relaxation before the cruise. Most of us spent time hiking a few of the trails around here to get a 360ยบ view of Ross Island where McMurdo Station is located. Many of us climbed Observation Hill the first day we arrived. The sun was out and the temperature was comfortable. It is a steep hill but a good workout and a nice view of the island. A cross was erected at the top of Ob Hill to commemorate Captain Scott and the other lives lost on their return from the South Pole in 1912. From there, and many other locations around the station, one can view the various islands and mountains that border Ross Island and the inlet, such as Mount Discovery and Black Island. On our Tuesday (your Monday) we were given a tour of Captain Scott’s Hut that was built on Cape Evans in 1911. The hut actually came from a kit that was purchased in Australia. Unfortunately it was not made for the cold conditions in Antarctica. On the contrary the materials were supposed to be used for the hot climate of Australia (to keep people cool inside) so the temperature was actually colder in the hut than outside. So my understanding is that Scott and his crew stayed in their ship most of the time. We weren’t allowed to touch the walls or any artifacts inside to preserve those items. Also there were areas that contained asbestos and anthrax, so those areas were roped off. It was a very windy day and the wind was bitter cold. By the end of the tour froze my toes and face.

Yesterday a group of us hiked another trail that took us around Ob Hill. We had a nice view of the surrounding ice and hundreds of seals in the distance lazing on the ice. At one point we stopped to listen to the ice heaving against the land. It was an eerie creaking sound and you could see the slight movement of the ice with the water.

--Last night at about 11:00 pm I walked down to the water’s edge. The Sun was at a low point in the horizon behind Mount Discovery. It had almost a sunset look to it, although it isn’t setting yet. The orange and yellow colors on the ice, and the sound of the water lapping the ice, provided a truly magical seen. I just stood there for about 10 minutes in awe of the scene. Of course I started getting philosophical at that point, just thinking about why people want to come here. What is the draw? Explorers have lost their lives to understand this place. Why? I think people are drawn here because Antarctica still provides a level of mystery, and it is still vastly untouched by humans. There is no beachfront property for us to flock. I personally hate the cold. HATE it. But I suffer through it because being here is a unique and life changing experience and I will take any opportunity to return.

--Today we finally get to board the ship and the process of setting up equipment in the lab spaces. The process is hardly ever smooth but we always make it work. We shall see how it goes.

Until next time....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Journey to McMurdo

Greetings from the far south! (BTW, the time line of the pictures is backwards; start from the bottom up). We finally made it to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. I awoke at 5:30am to catch the continental breakfast our B&B provided before our shuttle arrived at 6:45am. At the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) we picked up our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear, went through customs and checked into our flight. We were limited to 150lbs for baggage, including a boomerang bag. The boomerang bag is essentially an overnight bag that contains the items we would need if we had to return to New Zealand because of bad weather (i.e. boomerang back to NZ). Rules for the flight are somewhat similar. We have to go through the same screening process as normal airports except we don't have to take off our shoes and liquids are not limited to 3oz. We are also required to wear the ECW gear that consists of a large red parka, bib wind pants, fleece pants and goggles on the flight, just in case we crash land I guess.

The flight left New Zealand at about 10:00am. We were given a very plentiful bagged lunch (just in case we had to boomerang). It was a very uneventful flight 5 hour flight (operated by the U.S. Air Force) on an C-17 and a smooth landing on the ice runway (Pegasus) here in Antarctica, arrival time at about 3pm. We arrived on a very beautiful, sunny day (-11 degrees F, though). It took about an hour or so to ride in 'Ivan the Terrabus' from the runway to McMurdo station, passing the New Zealand station (Scott Base) on the way. The rest of the day consisted of safety briefings, collecting our bedding for the dorms, dinner at the station and a walk up to Observation Hill. I will save that for a separate post.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another day in NZ

Yesterday I decided to take a ride on the Gondola, then return to the base of the hill on a mountain bike. The day was quite windy and started out mostly cloudy, but cleared up throughout the day. The top of the Gondola is situated 1500 feet above sea level on the rim of an extinct volcano. From this location one can see the peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury Plains and Lyttelton Harbor. Unfortunately, because of the cloud cover I could not see the Alps. After I completed my walkabout on the crater rim, it was time to meet up with my mountain bike. I decided to take the more scenic route which lead me to Sumner, a coastal town outside of Christchurch. After a short uphill battle, it was all downhill from there. My bike had some gear issues, but I made it work. On my way down I happened to pass a couple of men gutting a cow. I noticed the back of a pickup truck was filled to the brim with innards. It was certainly a graphic scene I had not anticipated. Anyway, after almost being knocked off my bike by the wind, I slowly and carefully made my way down the mountain lest I fall down the edge on my left hand side. There were beautiful views of the beach from the road. Finally, I made it to Sumner and grabbed a small lunch. Afterward I carried on , passing a bay area that seemed to be popular for windsurfers and such. Back at the base of the mountain I met the shuttle that would take me back to Christchurch. Another beautiful day in NZ!