McMurdo Town

Andrew suggested that I do a blog post about where I am staying.  It seems that some folks think of Antarctica as by the scientists,  for the scientists and only scientists.    The Antarctic Treaty  sets aside Antarctica for science and peace-  so we have tourists running around (mostly in the warmer Peninsula region) and a whole mush of science support activities.   This year  McMurdo town has a population of about 800.    About 300 folks are scientists- the rest are military and contractors who support the science.    McMurdo is kind of like Eureka (from the t.v. show of the same name),  but here the military works for the scientists.   So allow me to take you on a walking tour of McMurdo Town…

McMurdo Station is on Ross Island in the Ross Sea.   Ross Island is a sloping volcanic Island,  so McMurdo  is very brown and dusty.   It closely resembles a mining town.  even our population is 70% or more male!

Like most towns we have…



But there are many ways we aren’t like most towns.  For starters,  this town is funded by the National Science Foundation to support Antarctic  Science  so things look a bit like you would imagine  if a bunch of academics ran the place….

A lot of town space is taken up with storage.   Storage of cargo waiting to transit,  storage of bits and pieces that we might need later.  We have inconspicuous wharehouses but also  a tremendous amount of storage berms .

And now it is time for you to leave McMurdo Station

So first you must walk across town  in your HUGE Jacket,  pants  and nonsense boots to …

Then you hop in a shuttle that drives you across town to the very delicate snow road that leads to the airfield

Then you have a 40 minute ride to

Finally  you get to wait in

And that ends your tour  of McMurdo town.  There are a few more things I want to show you like all the cool vehicles we have,  but this post is already way too long!

7 thoughts on “McMurdo Town

  1. That’s extremely cool. You said 800 residents, how many winter over? Are you part of the science party or support staff? What science is still left to do to need that much support? How do you keep the diesel fuel from gelling in the tanks? Does the snow leave McMurdo every summer? Does elevation have anything to do with that?

  2. I think there were lots of interesting things in this blog post. I didn’t know McMurdo wasn’t covered in snow, year-round, or even that it was on an island. There are some mighty colorful buildings! The blue one was my favorite. 🙂

  3. Thanks all for your comments! Most of Antarctica is covered in snow or ice year round. Less than 1% of the continent is ice free. McMurdo Station is ice free in the summer due to snow shoveling and snow melting (it is 40F today!) Because of the extreme cold temperatures, fuel waxing (or gelling) in the tanks is a big concern. We have additives in the fuel to lower the wax point. All of the fuel lines are covered in heat trace, some of the tanks have heaters. We have recently started painting the fuel tanks darker colors to help with passive heating- but this has also lead to unintentional melting the ground/snow in the immediate vicinity of the tank. It is definitely a balancing act! Winterover population is usually around 150 give or take.

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