Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Double Whammy on 2-22

Today, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake shook Christchurch, New Zealand, the latest in a series of earthquakes that have shaken the city since September 4 of last year. Unlike before, however, this quake leveled many buildings and has killed at least 65 people so far; many others are still trapped and unaccounted for. The steeple of the cathedral in the center of town has crumbled.  For those of you who may be trying to get in touch with USAP people in Christchurch, there is a Google spreadsheet that people are updating as they can. Also, there is a Facebook page called "Ice People Earthquake Check-in" where USAP participants can get in touch with each other.

On a lighter note, today provided the longest and windiest snowstorm I've seen so far at McMurdo Station. Fortunately, everyone here is safe and well. The winds are furious and non-stop and snow has been blowing in all directions. We had practically no snow on station yesterday and now there are snowdrifts between two and three feet deep. Below is a photo I took from the lounge of my dorm.

There will probably be more storms like this as the winter sets in. The first sunset since October occurred this past Sunday morning at around 1:30am. With each passing day, we will lose about 15 minutes of sunlight each day until the sun finally sets for the winter on Sunday, April 24; it will not rise again until August 19.

The past couple of weeks have been very busy.  I've changed jobs, I've begun packing my stuff to move to a new dorm for winter, and I've been spending last bits of time with people who are leaving Antarctica now that the research season is nearly over. The final flights are scheduled to leave Wednesday and Friday, although those will likely be delayed due to the weather here and the earthquake in New Zealand. In any case, once things settle down, I plan to resume blogging on a weekly basis. Until then, posts may appear rather sporadically. See you soon! :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Emperor Penguins!!

There's a group of Emperor penguins who have camped out near the road to the runway. Some of them are molting, but otherwise they just appear to be hanging out. Here are some photos I took last Tuesday when I went out to see them.

Approaching the penguins. We were only allowed to get as close as 25 feet to them, although if a penguin came up to us, that would be okay. Unfortunately,  none of them did.

The one in the middle is molting the most, and he looks like a big poof-ball.

Me and the penguins. Castle Rock can be seen behind me on the left.

Penguins amidst lots of penguin poop! Mmmm...

Three penguins with Ob Hill in the background.

They're so cute when they flap their wings!

Tweedledee and Tweedledum?

The molting penguin decided it was time to lay down.

This penguin is scratching under his left wing with his beak, even though it may look as if he's headless. :)

I'm so happy to see penguins!!

This week, the ship has arrived with most of the supplies for the next year. Everyone is working like crazy to get everything off the ship and delivered to the proper department. Then all the trash from the last year at McMurdo Station will be loaded onto the ship to be taken back to the US for disposal. Once that's done, the summer season will be over and everyone not staying for winter (and that's mostly everyone) will be headed home. Only two more weeks of 24-hour sunlight! Sunsets will be back!