14 October 2004

Mike D. here:

Hi all, Ahhh, finally - our first full day at McMurdo Station. One definitely gets the sense that this industrial-looking complex was designed entirely by and for men – very practical but not much style. LOTS of pipes and boxy buildings. What the station exterior lacks in style, however, is more than made up for by how darn nice everyone is here! In my short time here I get the impression that this is a great, close-knit community. Today being our first full day down here, we were whisked from building to building with acronyms for names (e.g., the former M.E.C. which is now the S.S.C., to the B.F.C. – don’t ask me what they mean) (Acronyms List) for various and asundry training programs. The basic thrust of these sessions (and those to come in the following days) was how NOT to kill yourself or others. The first of these training sessions (at 0800 hours) was driver training 101, then a science briefing with the good folks at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and then the REAL driver training where we got to actually take vehicles out for a spin. This was definitely the most fun class of the bunch, and it was one of my boyhood fantasies come true: driving full-size Tonka-style trucks with tracks and BIG tires. We test-drove the three types of vehicles that we will regularly be driving: 1) pickup trucks with huge Mickey Thompson tires;
2) Mat-trax, which are pickup trucks with tracked wheels instead of tires,
and 3) Pisten bullys, which are tracked vehicles like “Snow Cats” popular with downhill skiing operations.
The Pisten Bully was the coolest, in my opinion. It could turn on a dime and had a butt-warmer in the driver seat, although unfortunately, it could only go about 17 miles per hour (I was hoping for at least 50 mph). Despite the best efforts of the instructor to place us in challenging situations, like precision maneuvering in a maze of flammable gas cylinders, we all successfully managed to pass our driving exams. And tomorrow, onto more training…

Lets see the next day!