Goan to Antarctica....

Goan scientist Helga do Rosario Gomes is en route to the icy continent, and is keeping her blog of the journey...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's a dry ship

It's party time! We finish our work at the station and head close to McMurdo, the US permanent base camp which in summer holds almost 2500 people. Unlike last year we do not disembark and touch terra firma.

We want to be close to McMurdo so that a helicopter can bring in some of the chemicals and reagents that people either forgot or which did not make it on time in Christchurch.

It's mostly radioactive material from the USA that went through so many grueling Customs regulations that it landed late in NZ. So they have sent it off to McMurdo on one of the many flights operating from Christchurch to McMurdo.

The US generally uses Hercules C130 aircraft that have skis and can land on ice, to transport McMurdo workers, scientists, food and supplies and to bring back people, equipment and waste.

Last year we came back from McMurdo on these huge and very uncomfortable planes with our own waste already recycled and a helicopter stuck in the middle!!!!

The Antarctic Treaty is very strict about waste recycling. I met a guy from Michigan whose
only task was to process soil that had been contaminated with gasoline. Talk about a narrow field of specialization!

After much ice breaking, we reach close to McMurdo located on the Ross Island. We can see Mt Erebus with its wisps of volcanic activity and a few other beautiful mountains capped with snow.

The ship is completely embedded in the ice.

Everyone is looking forward to the next day and it's not because of the radioactive material that will be arriving for this means more work! We have been promised a 'spirited party'!

An unfortunate incident on the other ice breaker the 'Lawrence Gould' has led to the total ban of alcohol from any of National Science Foundation's research vessels.

There are currently eight versions of this incident floating around but the gist is that one very inebriated cruise participant returned from a big festa in Punta Arenas, Chile where the Gould usually docks, fell down the steps and because everyone was in some taverna in Punta Arenas no one came to his aid and he died.

In dying, he lay open the possibility of his family collecting millions in damages (although I do not think they did) and damned us to a voyage of Coke and orange juice.

But remember this is only on board the ship - if you manage to keep both your feet are off the gangway you can guzzle even lab grade alcohol provided you do not enter the ship until the breath analyzer says you are sober.

This sounds like a very clever way to circumvent a nuisance law until you realize that you might be have to wait for three hours in the ice literally cooling your heels until you are declared sober.


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