Re: Wintering at McMurdo


Good for you. You made the cut. What dept are you in?.
There are ton’s of things you could send down. A lot depends on what you like to do. If your time off will be spent in the bars and you don’t do anything else then you won’t need to send down anything. On the other hand McM probably doesn’t have the equipment for your hobbies. If you quilt, knit, polish rocks, make jewelery, fly kites etc. you will have to send it down.
If you have a laptop and are planning on burning CD’s or DVD’s buy your blank disks and send them down. While the store sometimes has enough to cover basic needs, the rule is that they usually don’t. We just bought 200 yesterday to send down.
I got a little burned out last winter, but now that I’m refreshed I’m planning on putting together winter trips again if I can find a good helper. I volunteer partly to be altruistic and help get people out of town and partly to be able to take photo’s. In the winter there is nothing like being out at castle rock in the dark and taking aurora pics.
To do it. You will need a good digital camera with manual settings and someway to use a manual shutter release. I use a nikon Coolpix 5000. 5megapixal camera. Some hints. You must have a tripod as you need to take15 second to multi-minute time exposures. You can take photos of auroras without a tripod because they are fuzzy anyway but if you have any landmarks in the picture you must have a tripod. All my tripods have broken from the cold. You have two tradeoffs. A heavy all metal tripod will hold up better, but is a little more difficult to handle in full gear. Aluminum can also crack, but not as easily. I prefer a small lightweight tripod. It is easy to carry around strapped to a backpack. It will work well unless you are in a lot of wind.
and even then you can shelter it with your body. You must handle them gently in the cold as the plastic parts can get brittle. JB weld to the rescue.
The real problem you’ll have with your camera is the cold. As V said you can put it inside your jacket, but if the camera gets below freezing while you are using it. Then as soon as you put it back inside your parka frost forms on the lens. I usually keep the camera in my pocket with some handwarmers instead. Battery life is non existant at cold temps. Bring lots of extra batteries and keep them inside your parka in the warmest place you can find. They won’t last long at 20 below. My local camera store sold me a large battery pack that so far has never failed in the cold. I keep it inside my jacket and run the cord out  to the camera.
McM has a darkroom that is reserved for the science groups in the summer and is off limits to everyone else. During the winter it’s open as long as they have a volunteer to manage it. (Haz chems and all). They have the chemicals for ektochrome slide film and black and white film and prints. Bring down your film if you plan on using it but beware there have been some years where the darkroom wasn’t opened. Digital is best.
If you get a digital, get the largest memory cards you can. On my camera a 128 meg chip will hold 6 full resolution photos and 50 good resolution. There is nothing worse than not having any space left when the sky suddenly explodes in the green lights of the auroras. You’ll be erasing pics while everyone else is taking photos and by the time you are done the aurora will be over. Yes, they can be that fleeting.
Sunglasses aren’t needed for the dark. The program will issue you snow goggles. Tinted lenses for summer and clear for winter.