Getting Ready to Go to Antarctica

December 4th, I will begin a long journey to the most inaccessible, remote location I could dream of ever reaching – the West Antarctic Ice Sheet .  I am going there to document the WAIS Divide Ice Core Project with support from the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program.Wais Map

Scientist are drilling a 3.5 kilometer ice core (that’s almost 19 Space Needles!) in order to gain a more detailed understanding of climate change for the past 100,000 years or so.  For me, the core represents a profound record of time and memory.  The earth saves its history for us and the scientists are the augers of this knowledge.  I am humbled by the opportunity to document this field work in images and words.

During the past two months, I have worked with my very helpful program manager at The US Antarctic Program to schedule flights, equipment and training.  There was also a gauntlet of medical and dental tests to endure (physically and monetarily).  I am now packing and making last minute arrangements.

From Seattle, I fly to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I will be outfitted with extreme weather gear (EWG) from the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC).  I will then take a C-17 transport plane to the McMurdo Base to spend a week learning how to live and work safely on the continent.  This includes Happy Camper School, an overnight camping on the ice shelf near McMurdo.  Word has it that the night you spend in your own show shelter will be the coldest of your life.  I have been assured that the tent I stay in while on the plateau will be “warm” in comparison.

Above is a schematic map highlighting my trip from New Zealand to the WAIS Field Camp.  Once at WAIS, I will spend most of my time drawing, taking photos and helping with tasks around the camp.  A priority will be to draw outside whenever the weather allows.  Even on a calm day, I will likely be battling 10knot winds.  Due to these extremes, I am keeping my gear light and relatively small.  Drawings will be done on 1/4 sheets (15″x11″) with pencils.  I am taking a field watercolor set for painting indoors.  I have several snow activities planned, including taking rubbings of a snow pit, creating ice time capsules to photograph and skiing on the plateau.

Once underway, I plan to post daily, as internet access allows, to chronicle my trip.  Check back and send warm thoughts my way!