Travel Log: 14 December 2001

Dateline: Friday, 14 December 2001
McMurdo Base

Temp: -3°C / 27°F
Windchill: -23°C / -9°F
Wind: Southeasterly at 27 knots

Randy writes:

We are once again delayed, and I don't expect to fly out before Monday. Condition 1, the most severe weather condition, has been set for the Pegasus runway and Condition 2 for the rest of McMurdo.

We currently have southeasterly winds at 27 knots -- which is a lot of wind! Visibility has shrunk to only 3/8 of a mile. But the temperatures are still not bad.

Another low pressure system is moving in; this is the big one that we saw on the satellite image yesterday and it will bring strong winds and more snow.

We are now looking for things to do this weekend.

(Randy was asked how the bad weather at McMurdo is more dangerous for planes than bad winter weather in Chicago:)

There are a lot of variables. An airport like O'Hare has much better infrastructure and instrumentation. If a plane can't land there, there are many other airports within a reasonable distance to land. Here there is only one landing strip operational for a few thousand miles for a wheeled aircraft. If they can't land here than they need to ditch on a glacier, which is dicey. Also the pilots need to decide 3-4 hours in advance what they will do because they use almost all their fuel for the trip.

The weather is much worse than a grey day in Chicago. The wind is gusting up to 40 knots -- enough to shut things down for a bit at O'Hare -- and now it is snowing. McMurdo is a funny place: nice one second and then the wind kicks up and whamo! you are in trouble.


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