Antarctic Search and Rescue

One of the best experiences I had this year at McMurdo was being a part of the Winter Joint Search and Rescue Team (JSART). This is a joint emergency response team made up of members of both the US base, McMurdo, and the New Zealand base, Scott Base.

It was really great to learn a ton of new skills, such as climbing skills, knots, pulley systems, using GPS to navigate in whiteout environments, and taking ice thickness measurements. It was nice to meet and work closely with our NZ counterparts as well.

We had a lot of great training scenarios. We trained climbing up Castle Rock and repelling down. We did multiple stretcher raise and lower exercises on Observation Hill, in very extreme -40 F weather with low visibility. We trained driving tracked vehicles with no visibility by GPS alone. We also did two exercises measuring the thickness of sea ice near cracks, to determine if they were safe to travel on.

Luckily we were never called up for active duty this winter. The most excitement we saw was putting up rope lines between buildings before a big storm!

A lot of these great pictures below are from my fellow SAR member and excellent photographer Josh Swanson. Enjoy!


Post Antarctic Trip

After finishing my 13 month contract at McMurdo Station in November 2017, I was very excited to travel.

I signed another contract for McMurdo winter season 2018 starting in February, so I had about three and a half months to travel the world before returning to the ice. Luckily I was able to recruit several of my friends to travel with me on my trip.


New Zealand

The first Place I traveled to was New Zealand. The USAP dropped me off in Christchurch, and from there I traveled all around the south island for six weeks. I traveled here with my friend Will and later Allie and Alex.

New Zealand is a beautiful place, and the best way to see it is by car. The main attractions are the breathtaking landscapes themselves. It is a great place to camp and enjoy the outdoors.

The south island has many varied landscapes from glaciers to jungles to beautiful beaches, it was wonderful to see so much nature after my time in Antarctica.


After New Zealand I traveled to India, where I met my friends Jared, Chris, and Ben who joined me at different times.

India is a huge country and I was able to see just a small part of it in my six weeks there. I traveled mostly on established tourist routes, covering the north west, central north, and southern parts of the country.

I began with the “golden triangle” of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, and then headed into the deserts of Rajasthan in the north west. The ancient cities and forts here are a sight to behold.

Next was the central north where I saw Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha achieved enlightenment, and Varanasi, the famous holy city on the Ganges.

To see another side of India, I traveled to the south which was a totally different experience. The warm weather was welcome after my time in the north, and the change in cuisine was appreciated as well.

Hong Kong and Taiwan

On the way home I traveled for a week to Hong Kong and Taiwan with my friend Chris.

We visited a family friend Sonali in Hong Kong, who has an apartment in the new territories, and we stayed in a hostel in Taipei to get a taste of Taiwan.

Our time in Hong Kong and Taiwan was spent mostly eating, enjoying the local cuisines. We enjoyed many meals, such as beef noodle soup, roasted duck, soup dumplings, and dim sum.

Overall it was a great trip and I was very lucky to have so many friends join me. It did leave me exhausted though, and I was thankful for my week in the US before redeploying to McMurdo!


Seasons of McMurdo

June 21st marked Midwinter’s day, an important holiday for Antarctic winter overs. It is the middle of the winter season meaning there are now more days of darkness behind us than ahead.

Over the past few months I have observed the changing seasons from my office, from the balmy 35 degree summer to the current -30 degree winter. Here are a few pictures of the transition to summer to winter.


Creating a Python Web App with Heroku

I decided to create a simple web application with Heroku to help improve my Python skills.

This application uses beautifulsoup to scrape Linux distribution websites for .torrent files of their ISOs.

Once the torrents are downloaded they can be accessed via HTTP using simplehttpserver running on a Heroku web dyno.

The application also records its access times in Heroku’s Postgres service using SQLAlchemy.

You can see the site in action here and check out the source code at my github account here.





Cisco Autonomous Access Points in Point to Multipoint Configuration

In certain circumstances it is not feasible or desirable to use wired links for a network distribution layer, for example in temporary setups or in locations with little infrastructure.

A point to multipoint wireless solution makes sense in these scenarios, offering a distribution layer with the minimum of equipment, time, and effort.

This type of setup consist of a wireless root access point and multiple non-root client access points as shown below.

Point to Multipoint.png

For this configuration we are using Cisco 2602 access points with autonomous IOS software. Cisco differentiates autonomous and lightweight IOS images with the following feature codes:

  • k9w7 – Fully Autonomous IOS
  • k9w8 – Standard lightweight IOS

Once you have installed the autonomous IOS image, you can use this template to configure the access points.

The APs should show they are connected by changing their status lights to blue, and you can check the association status with the following command.

TEST_NON_ROOT_AP#sh dot11 associations

802.11 Client Stations on Dot11Radio0:


MAC Address    IP address      IPV6 address                           Device        Name            Parent         State
189c.5d83.7a40    ::                                     bridge        TEST_ROOT_AP    -              Assoc




It has been very busy at McMurdo for the past few weeks. Every year the research station is resupplied by sea. This time, known as “vessel,” is one of the operational high points of the summer season. Hundreds of additional cargo handlers are flown in for the job, making the station feel quite crowded.

This year four ships came into McMurdo Sound and docked at the ice pier, a man made iceberg which is thick enough to facilitate cargo on load and offload. The ships which visited were:

The Polar Star is the first to arrive, this year cutting through 60 miles of 8ft thick ice to reach the port. This ship clears the way for the other vessels.

The Nathaniel B. Palmer is a NSF research vessel which docked at McMurdo to refuel and change crews.

The Ocean Giant supplied the station with a years worth of supplies, everything from science equipment, construction materials, and food is brought in on the ship. The ship returns to the US with all of the trash and waste produced by the station over a year.

The Maersk Peary supplied the station with fuel which is used for power generation, vehicles, heating, and refueling ships.

I was able to participate in line handling this year, which is the process of mooring the ships to the land by attaching strong ropes to bollards on shore.

Each of the ships gave tours, where the crew were nice enough to show us around their ship. It was very fun and interesting to learn a bit about naval architecture.

As vessel winds up, the station population is beginning its decline as we close out the summer season. In a few weeks only the winter personnel will remain, cutting the population from nearly 1000 to about 150. And I will be one of the few staying!

Room With a View

Working in Antarctica has some nice perks, one of which are the amazing recreational trips organized by the rec office.

Recently I was able to take part in “Room With A View”, a trip by snowmobile to the base of Mount Erebus. Two leaders brought eight of us on the ~1 hour ride out to the small base camp.

It was really fun learning to ride a snowmobile out into such a remote area. We got to hang around for about an hour at the camp, make snow angles, and have a snowball fight before returning to McMurdo.