Mud Murdo

McMurdo during Winfly is a majestic winter wonderland.

It’s consistently cold enough that snow doesn’t melt. It accumulates everywhere, and new snow keeps falling to cover the dirty snow underneath. There are drifts several feet high around the edges of buildings and roads.

Part of the work during Winfly is digging out or thawing out infrastructure that went unused during the winter. Buildings are de-winterized, culverts are dug out.

Here’s a selection of my favorite town photos from Winfly, highlighting the snowcover:

Snow 01

Snow 02

Snow 03

Snow 04

Snow 05

Snow 06

Snow 07

Now that it’s summer, the ambiance is… different. It’s been consistently in the +15°F to +30°F range for the last few weeks. We should blip above freezing any day now! We also have intense 24x7 sunlight.

McMurdo is on the southern tip of Ross Island, on fine volcanic dirt. The dirt gets everywhere! When dry, it blows around window seals into buildings. It works its way into clothing.

When it’s in the process of melting, the snow is crusty, dirty, and muddy. The mud appears in the culverts and on roads. It runs down the streets toward McMurdo Sound, and we carve temporary channels to carry it safely away.

Walking around during the peak sunlight hours, you’re subjected to mud, mud, mud:

Mud 01

Mud 02

Mud 03

Mud 04

Mud 05

Mud 06

Mud 07

Mud 08

The snow is melting, and the small remaining piles hold increasing concentrations of dirt.

Dirty Snow 01

Dirty Snow 02

Dirty Snow 03

Dirty Snow 04

Dirty Snow 05

Dirty Snow 06

Dirty Snow 07

Dirty Snow 08

When the mud dries up, you’re left with just… dirt. Compare these with the Winfly photos – it’s a stark difference.

Dirt 01

Dirt 02

Dirt 03

Dirt 04

Dirt 05

It’s less… aesthetic than the typical postcard scenes from Antarctica. But walking past mud puddles is part of my daily life, and I like highlighting the everyday mundane aspects of this strange, strange place.

Some inhabitants, human and otherwise, have taken the mud in stride. Here’s a real live South Polar Skua enjoying the mud, taken from a respectable and compliant distance, per our obligations under the Antarctic Treaty System:

Skua Pond

And, on a lighter note, here’s a delightful public art project installed by some McMurdo residents. Plastic ducks, blown around on the wind, swimming a mud puddle outside the Science Support Center (SSC), Building 4:

Duck Pond

I hope others find this as interesting as I do.

Until next time!