McMurdo: Sights Around Town

McMurdo:  Sights Around Town

Wherever you are, you are surrounded by a million little sights and sounds.  It’s amazing how you become accustomed to being in a place…with all of it’s sensory information.  I’ve been getting a lot of emails each day with questions about what it’s like to be living in McMurdo or Antarctica in general.  Since I wrote such a long blog yesterday, I decided the next couple of days I would take you on a little visual and auditory tour of this unique place.  Here goes!

RED parkas…they are everywhere. Many people brought their own coats, but I had no room left in my luggage.  I cannot wait to wear a coat other than a red parka….lightweight or BIG red.


On my way to “work” each morning at Crary Lab, this is the scene across McMurdo Sound.  I’m looking at beautiful mountains, sweeping valleys, and glaciers slowly moving over time. 


There are pipes above ground everywhere around town. 



In many places there are bridges or stairs to cross over the pipes.


Power lines are attached to poles all over town.  This section of McMurdo looks like a maze.


We have a lot of communications equipment here in McMurdo.  It still amazes me that we can email and get a rapid response from around the world, talk on the phone and sound like we are next door (often with a slight delay), and we can use programs like Skype (for educational purposes) to actually have a live video conference.


It’s like there are giant golf balls perched on the hills surrounding McMurdo Station; they actually house communications equipment.


More communication equipment in town…


Some of the vehicles here are like those I might see back home, like this van.  All of the vehicles get dirty very quickly because of slush, dirt, and mud this time of year.


Other vehicles are nothing like those I see back home.


Some with tires…


and many with tracks…


Certain vehicles are specially adapted to move on ice or snow.



During really cold weather, many vehicles are plugged in to keep the engine warm so it’s easier to start.


A lot of the heavy equipment vehicles have names stenciled on them.  I enjoy going around town and finding these named vehicles.  I always wonder who named them, why, and when it happened.  Just so you know, another word for a scientist in McMurdo is a “beaker.”  Scientists sometimes use a glass container called a beaker.  (Julie, the photo below is for you!  🙂




Some of the vehicles are used for hauling heavy loads or supplies.

Others are used for transporting people.  We have Deltas, Ivan the Terra Bus, vans, trucks, and many other types of vehicles used for people-moving.

While others are used for individuals getting around the dirt roads of McMurdo Station.


Wherever I walk in town, I’m always aware of heavy equipment moving around.  Those big things can’t stop quickly and so I have to be on the lookout.  Most people walk everywhere in town, and although I’ve been in vehicles, it is not like that is an every day occurrence.

At this time of year almost EVERY vehicle stirs up a lot of dust from the dirt roads.  Clouds of dust circle the air after a vehicle passes by.


Once in a while I’ll see people riding around town on bikes.  


I even saw this boat today.  I’m wondering if it will be used when the re-supply or fuel vessel comes into McMurdo’s ice pier.  Maybe it’s used when the icebreaker comes into port here.  I’ll have to wait and see.


It makes me laugh to see the “bus stop” because we don’t have buses here.  Some vehicles are used as shuttles though. 


Our main pick up and drop off location in McMurdo is called “derelict junction.”


I’ve seen many fuel storage tanks around town. There seems to be one near every building or close by.  Some are small, and some are huge!  They hold different types of fuels…some hold mogas (motor gas, like you’d put in your car) and others might hold jet fuel.





Often I pass by pallets wrapped and ready to be shipped, or perhaps they were just brought here by a military cargo plane.


Containers are used for portable storage…all over town.


Recycling bins are positioned outside buildings and every bit of trash is sorted and prepared to go back to the United States on the re-supply cargo vessel.


Crazy artwork is displayed around town.  This metal statue is under the stairway that I walk up and over many times each day. 


How about this metal tree?  I miss seeing trees…A LOT!


The only bird I’ve seen flying around is the skua.  It still catches my eye though and it’s great to see something flying.

They stop and perch in places all over town.


I keep hoping that more penguins will find their way closer to town really soon.

A couple of weeks ago the WISSARD’s had a dinner in a building known as Hut 10.  It was so beautiful out that night, we were able to grill out…with a view of the Transantarctic Mountains across McMurdo Sound.


Alex, one of the WISSARD graduate students was one of our grill masters at the cookout.


The best visual (and tasty) treat today…a banana!  One of the WISSARD scientists who arrived a couple of days ago brought fresh fruit from New Zealand.  Susan and I split this special treat, which tasted GREAT!  We made a lot of fuss over one small banana. 


I miss seeing certain things from back home.  But, new sights have taken their place temporarily.  Some are strange or unique to this place, while some are beautiful or remind me of places I’ve been somewhere else in the world. Tomorrow I’ll share a few more sights, but I’ll also focus on the sounds we hear each day around McMurdo.  Meanwhile, think about what you see and hear each day as part of your everyday life.  There are so many sensory experiences every single day.

I’ll leave you with this short video clip I took from the top of Observation Hill back in November.  We climbed it on a picture-perfect day.  I certainly enjoyed the 360 degree panoramic view.

14 responses to “McMurdo: Sights Around Town

  1. Hello Betty, I’m Carlo from Italy, a friend of Matteo.
    Thanks a lot for the very interesting blog about your experience with the Wissard project.
    Just a question after publishing this amazing gallery about Mc Murdo Station. Do you know if at Mc Murdo St are used renewable energy sources? Thank you and congratulations

    • Ciao Carlo, So nice to hear from you!
      Thank you for the positive comments on the blog. Yes, we do have some renewable energy here….solar power is used to run some equipment in McMurdo and also in the deep field. There are also 3 wind turbines on the hills between McMurdo and Scott Base (the New Zealand station nearby). In the next blog you will see the wind turbines. I have a photo of solar power being used in the blog from just a few days ago, about our scientist Slawek Tulaczyk. The solar panels help run the GPS and seismic equipment.

      I will have more photos from McMurdo very soon, so please check back to the blog tomorrow. 🙂 Thanks so much for writing! Betty

    • Hi Jeanne,
      Congrats again on your daughter’s engagement! Lack of trees here is due to the harsh polar climate and lack of soils. We walk on volcanic rocks that have been broken down…McMurdo was formed by several volcanoes…Mt. Terror, Mt. Terra Nova, and Mt. Erebus (that one’s still active). But, the climate is the big reason….it’s just too cold here. This wasn’t always a cold place though. Scientists know that in the past Antarctica has had a much warmer climate. If you click on my blog roll (right hand side of this website) then you can access some great videos from ANDRILL that will teach you about this special environment.

      Birds: there are more in the sub-Antarctic areas, and some do fly pretty far south, but basically right here we have skuas, we can have terns (haven’t ever seen one) and 2 species of penguins (they fly through the water….not in the air) the Emperor and the Adelie. For the birds, they would have to find their food in the ocean, which is why many species do not live this far south…they can’t find food on land.
      I hope this helps! 🙂 Stay in touch!

  2. Cool fun blog. It is nice to try to experience what you are experiencing on a day in your life at McMurdo. While the base may not be that beautiful the surroundings are, indeed, sure beautiful. Of course, the base is interesting but I bet you will really enjoy seeing greenery soon.



    PS: Steve’s trip was delayed so he will be here for Chris’ visit. Of course, this means Steve is now working on a cool German feast for Sunday night. I think he is making wild boar (wildschwein) gulash with of course homemade spaetzle and some German vegetables. The wild boar meat is compliments of his cousin from his hunt. Steve was originally going to roast the entire portion of meat but opted for gulash instead. Should be wonderful.

    • Okay, the German feast is making me jealous!!! Take a photo and send it to me….then I can dream of the delicious dinner you are all having. 🙂 And yes, I cannot wait to see GREEN and other colors. New Zealand will still be in summer mode when I touch base there, but even Illinois will have more color than here. 🙂 LIOB Boop

  3. That was so interesting… all the little things add up to what life is all about! You are a wonderful guide!!

    • Well, thanks Tina! Your “guide” will be posting part two of the McMurdo tour later today. It will focus a lot on the sounds around town. I miss a lot of the sounds from back home, but we have unique ones here. 🙂

    • I try to get those penguins into the blog whenever I can! Did you see the blog post from much earlier in my stay here…that focuses on my friend Jean and her work with the penguins? If not, go back to find that one. 🙂 You’ll love all of the photos.

    • Hi Maddie,
      So nice to hear from you! I used to see Mt. Erebus each day that I went out to the WISSARD test site. Now the only way I’d see it is if I walked up Ob Hill or over toward Scott Base. The mountain is not that visible from McMurdo Station because we sit in a kind of bowl-shaped area. I’ll see it again many times before I leave…I hope! It is so majestic and beautiful. 🙂 Keep on reading my blogs and writing to me. I miss being your teacher, but I’ll be home before you know it. Love, Mrs. Trummel

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