excursions during winter over??

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    Hi all – I am considering a position for the 09 winter season at the McMurdo station. This would be my first experience on the ice and I’m a bit nervous I will be stuck indoors for the majority of the 8 months. It seems like there are many opportunities for rec and excursions during the summer, but, what about the winter? Anyone out there have winter-over experience? Will there be opportunity to see the wildlife? the island? etc.? I would be working in an office-type operational role. Any information would be greatly appreciated!!


    Good question. You will NOT be stuck indoors for eight months. How much you get outside is up to you, but at the least you’ll be walking between buildings every day.

    Mike is the guru on this — when I wintered with him he made a special effort to create mid-winter outings for the community. I just went out on my own solo adventures. During the summer there’s lots of station-sponsored outings, but don’t plan on that during the winter — most often it’s up to you.

    Just after station close (March-April) is one of the prettiest — and sometimes warmest — times of the year. The sun may be setting (or already set for the season) but you can easily get out on the weekends for a short hike. It’s really beautiful. During May-July it’s very dark and more difficult to get out; that doesn’t mean you can’t, it just takes more effort. August was the toughest month… The sun may be coming up, but it’s just freaking cold. Most people are pooped-out by then anyway and don’t really want to go on adventures.

    Don’t be nervous. Be cautiously excited!



    glenn – thank you so much for this information! I am excited that it’s a real possibility to venture out. A blog i read made me nervous when it mentioned that many people down there never get the opportunity to explore. And, I would go crazy if that was true. I’m really glad I found this site – it is VERY helpful! Thanks again!!


    Just to add a few words to what Glenn said.  Outdoor recreation in the winter can be a challenge but it is possible.  Understand there are restrictions on what you can do and where you can go.  You might find the restrictions some what limiting but they are for your own safetly and for those that have to come looking for you if you have a problem.  You will not be allowed to just strike out on your own when ever you wish but given good weather there are plenty to opportunities to enjoy the Antarctic winter.  Be sure you  get away from the lights on the main station (McMurdo) at some point in the winter, on a clear night, so you can appreciate the stars.  You have never seen anything like it.


    Sitting in a snow bank out of sight of the station, watching the stars… Wonderful!

    Skiing to Castle Rock under the full moon, the glacier lit up like daytime…

    Working out-of-town and suddenly the sky is lit up by auroras…

    Seeing minke whales playing in open water (!) off Hut Point…

    Photographing nacreous clouds from Ob Hill…

    Watching the last sunset from a high ridge, looking out over the frozen ocean…

    Yup, there are a few things to see and do during the winter. Anybody else have some special memories?



    Believe it or not, I still remember climbing OB Hill with my dive buddy to see the first sunrise of the year (1967)….turns out the Navy figured out the wrong day and the sun didn’t come up until the next day.  Or we were the only two guys on station that were not in on the joke.  We still drank the bottle of wine we brought along for the occasion.  
    And the stars….unbelievable!


    Wow hearing all this makes me think about trying to go for a winter for my 1st season…… Okay on 2nd thought I think I’ll stick to a summer on my 1st go round. None the less these memories sound wonderful.

    capn steve

    Just don’t get lost and have the SAR team try and find you. Last winter all we had to do to go on a boondoggle was put our request in to the station mngr. and have driver training on the vehicle we were to drive. Almost always we were approved.
    cap’n steve


    On the whole, there are usually options for somebody who is recreationally inclined to run trips during the winter. It is however, not so much fun and games for the trip organizers. There are trip plans, rules to follow. You have to gather the equipment. fuel them, pick everyone up,  always keep an eye out for the overly adventurous ones trying to wander out over crevasse fields. And in the end you drop everyone off fat and happy and then you  have another hour or more putting everything away.
    I did it because it meant I always got to sit in the heated seats in the pisten bulleys.
    No, more, I did like all the trips I ran, but they were tiresome.


    Warning! MORE Shameless Self-Promotion Follows…
    This month’s World Watch magazine used one of my photos for its cover. The picture was taken September 2007 in the Bellingshausen Sea. They also used another one of mine (the same one as on the cover of the USAP Participant Guide) in their article.
    Antarctica is stunningly beautiful in the winter…      

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