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Prepared by Antarctic Support Associates

Listing of Contents


McMurdo Station is Antarctica's largest community. Established in 1956, it has grown from an outpost of a few buildings to a complex logistics staging facility of more than 100 structures. Winter population is about 250 persons; summer population reaches 1000. McMurdo includes a "downtown" area, science and support facilities, and an outlying airport (Williams Field), plus a blue ice runway and a summer runway on the sea ice. Before December, the sea-ice runway is used for wheeled landing and take-off of fixed-wing aircraft. After December, runway facilities are transferred to ski-equipped operations at Williams Field. At the end of the season, redeployment flights take off and land at the blue ice ("Pegasus") runway. From Williams Field and the ice runways, flights not only span the continent, but maintain McMurdo's contact with New Zealand and the United States.

You will find that McMurdo Station resembles an urban center in its population diversity and hectic pace. Like major cities, McMurdo serves as an international center where people of different backgrounds meet and exchange ideas. Two miles away is the neighboring New Zealand research facility Scott Base.

This booklet is intended to answer questions most frequently asked by participants in the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) upon their arrival at McMurdo. As this publication cannot address everything you will need to know about your stay on the ice, briefings may be held in the continental U.S., New Zealand, and McMurdo.

As you read this booklet, make notations of anything about which you have questions and bring them up during your briefing. It is also strongly recommended that you read the USAP Personnel Manual and the Survival in Antarctica publication given to all participants. These contain important information not covered in this pamphlet. Wherever general information is provided, there likely will be additional detailed information on bulletin boards in the USAP quarters. For example, operating hours of various facilities and activities will be posted.


The Chalet, Building 167, was erected during the 1969-1970 summer. It is the USAP administration and operations center and houses the offices of the Senior U.S. Representative in Antarctica, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Representative, and senior management of the support contractor, Antarctic Support Associates (ASA). The Chalet has a conference area and a meeting room for presentations and official social gatherings.

A single-sideband radio for contact with South Pole Station and field parties is also located in the Chalet as are satellite communication facilities. Science groups will find message and mail slots located in the foyer. The Chalet administrative staff is a point of contact for referral, information, and assistance for the USAP community.

While ASA's Resident Manager and Senior Manager have offices in the Chalet, most ASA-related functions are located in other work sites.

Building 77 houses the ASA personnel office. The division consists of a Personnel Coordinator, a Finance Clerk, and a Human Resources Assistant. Building 77 also has offices for the Housing Coordinator, the Passenger Coordinator and for visiting personnel. ASA employees are encouraged to contact the Personnel Office for human resource-, housing-, or travel-related questions or concerns.


The new science facility, the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center (CSEC), dedicated on 5 November 1991, begins full operation of all three "phases" during the 1994-95 season. The Crary Laboratory consists of five "pods" in three "phases," comprising 46,500 square feet of working area. The five pods support biological, earth science, atmospheric sciences and a new aquarium under one roof.

The CSEC will house state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, including a local area network (LAN) of computers connected to the Internet; telescience, library, environmental, and microbiological rooms; a Faraday Cage; an electronics workshop, a photographic darkroom, and freezers for processing ice cores and other frozen specimens; a Radarsat Control Room; a Mount Erebus seismic observatory; the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center (AMRC); and penetrations through the roof to accommodate instruments such as an Italian Lidar.

One office is dedicated for use by the NSF Science Representative, Antarctica. Other laboratories and offices are dedicated to ASA specialists supporting basic and applied research conducted in the McMurdo region, such as a Science Technician, Analytical Chemist, Analytical Technician, as well as the laboratory and computer operations support staffs.

The new facility replaces the outdated laboratory facilities, Eklund Biological Center (EBC) and Thiel Earth Science Laboratory (TESL). The Crary Laboratory will facilitate international polar research, educational opportunities, and advancement of science and technology as USAP approaches a new millennium.

A Recompression Chamber facility, Building 85, is located next to the Dispensary and houses a chamber for the treatment of dive-accident patients, carbon dioxide poisoning, gas-gangrene, and others where hyperbaric oxygen therapy is indicated.

The Dive Locker, Building 144, houses research dive equipment and includes an air compressor for filling tanks.

The Cosmic Ray Monitoring Laboratory is located along the road to Scott Base. This laboratory houses the neutron monitoring equipment necessary for the long-term observation and study of the cosmic ray flux.

The Arrival Heights Lab is located approximately two miles from McMurdo near second crater and the Kiwi Earth Station. Researchers using this laboratory investigate magnetospheric and ionospheric phenomena. They also monitor ultra-violet radiation, and make ultra-violet spectroscopic measurements as part of ozone depletion research. The laboratory and a large area around the lab are OFF LIMITS to the public, because the experiments located in this area are extremely sensitive to people walking and driving around them. Please observe the posted signs.

An aquarium, Building 187, contains several tanks with marine organisms from McMurdo Sound.


Science support facilities include the Mechanical Equipment Center (MEC), Building 58, the Berg Field Center (BFC), Building 160, and a storage facility.

Persons in the MEC issue and maintain snowmobiles, generator sets, gas-powered ice augers, rock drills, chain saws, portable dive compressors, and 12V batteries and battery chargers used by science groups. They also delegate a fleet of "pool" pickups and tracked vehicles for use by the science community. Those science groups requiring use of any equipment should have made their request in the Support Information Packets provided by ASA. Any revisions to the SIP request must be directed to the supervisor of the MEC for rescheduling requests. Science groups may request training--well in advance--for use and field maintenance of issued equipment.

The BFC issues food and equipment to field parties. Science equipment is outfitted and gathered here before deployment to the field. A variety of field safety training courses also are available with BFC personnel. If you are planning to do field work, you will be advised as to which courses best suit your needs.

ASA support staff use Building 173, located next to the BFC, as a storage area. Specific science items also may be stored there. Arrange with the BFC supervisor to use this space. In addition, the storage building is the focal point of civilian cargo operations including retrograde cargo.


Housing facilities in McMurdo have improved greatly in recent years. Those staying in McMurdo for a short time or moving frequently between the field and town may be housed in Building 166 (The Hotel California) and 188 (The Mammoth Mountain Inn) and, as space permits, in Dorm 209. Most NSF personnel and some program guests live in Buildings 125 and 137. Dorms 207 through 211, and the 600-series Jamesway buildings (the 9-Pack) house most of ASA's staff. Civilians also will live in rooms on the first floor of Building 155.

A point system assists in determining ASA housing assignments. Points are assigned according to previous months on ice and position.

Particularly during periods from late October through early December and from mid-January through early February, housing areas will be crowded. Your patience will be required. Some programs operate 24 hours a day and people will sleep during the day in various quarters. Housing is designated as smoking or non-smoking and some dorm floors are designated quiet areas. Please have consideration for your neighbors: respect the housing regulations.

During the winter, personnel are assigned housing in buildings designated to remain open. These may include various dormitory facilities.


Fire: The danger of fire is always present and is always great. Be careful about smoking, and do not smoke in bed! Check ashtrays and waste baskets before leaving common-use areas for the night. Most buildings are equipped with automatic fire alarm systems. In the event of FIRE call 3333, wait outside for the fire-fighting party to arrive, and direct them to the blaze. Call even if the alarm is sounding.

Medical Emergency: If someone is injured and requires immediate transportation to the dispensary, call the ambulance at extension 2222. This is an emergency-only number. Please wait for the ambulance and direct it to the injured person.

Facilities Problems: If you discover heat off in a building, a leaky water faucet, or any maintenance problem that will result in damage to a building or might cause a safety hazard, call the ASA trouble desk at 2444/2555.

Vehicle Problems: If your vehicle will not start, or you encounter a vehicle maintenance problem or an accident, call the Vehicle Maintenance Facility at 2500 or the Trouble Desk @2555.


Located in Building 155, the dining facility offers cafeteria-style dining and a lunch-time deli. Vegetarian selections are available at most meals. With the exception of occasional specialty foods (lobster, for example), portions are not supervised. Civilians may dine in either the enlisted (E-Side) or officer (O-Side) section of the facility.

The Ship's Store carries a limited inventory of food items. Please note, however, that NSF strongly discourages in-home cooking due to the extreme fire hazard. In fact, appliances with an exposed heating element--hot plates, for example--are expressly prohibited in personal quarters.


Most of you will be arriving at McMurdo during the busy austral summer. A good source of information on upcoming activities is the scroll, a televised message system. The scroll provides information about hours of service, special events, opening and closing of temporary roads on the sea ice, water supply changes, health and safety issues, movie schedules, and other activities. Bulletin boards outside the dining hall also provide community information, as do boards located in the living areas. Make a habit of becoming familiar with these.

The following section outlines some of the services regularly available at McMurdo.

  1. SHIP'S STORE: Items sold include toiletries, stationery, soda, electronics, jewelry, food, tobacco, confectionery, cameras, film, and souvenirs. However, stocks are limited and items such as film may not be available. It is a good idea to bring your own personal supplies.

  2. POST OFFICE: It takes the Navy Post Office three to four hours to sort mail from incoming flights. Mail for the ASA population and for science groups is further sorted in the mail room located on the first floor of Building 140. The mail flag will be flown from the top of Building 140 when mail is ready for distribution. While letter mail has a high priority and is therefore allotted aircraft space on a routine basis, package mail does not. Because delivery times can be excessive, USAP participants should bring all critical personal items in their baggage when they deploy.

  3. MEDICAL DISPENSARY AND HOSPITAL: Medical care is available year-round in the Dispensary, Building 142. Sick-call hours are posted and emergencies will be admitted anytime. A dentist is available during the summer for dental emergencies. For medical emergencies, dial 2222.

  4. BARBER SERVICE: This service is free. For an appointment, call the shop or sign the schedule posted on the Barber Shop door in Building 155.

  5. CHURCH: Various services and activities are held according to schedules published on the scroll. The Chaplain is available for consultations.

  6. LAUNDRY SERVICE: Washing machines and dryers are located in the living quarters. In times of water shortage, the washing machines may be placed out of service. Wool and other shrinkable materials and those with dyes that run should be hand-washed. Please launder your own bed linen, which is assigned to you for the duration of your stay. Complete procedures will be posted in each building.

  7. RECREATION: The Navy-managed Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department, in Building 63, has several recreational activities available to everyone. These include a tape recording center, a work-out room with weight lifting and exercise equipment, a bowling alley, a variety of musical instruments for rent, cassette tapes and compact disks for loan, and cross country skis, boots, and poles. The second floor also houses a leather workshop and a ceramics shop.

    A small gymnasium is located in Building 75 where basketball, racquetball, and volleyball games may be held. Aerobics training takes place several times a week, usually in the gym at announced times. The gym also contains a climbing wall. Additional exercise equipment is located in Building 78.

    During the austral summer, science lectures will be held on most Sunday evenings in the dining facility. The library in Building 155 contains a collection of polar books, some technical books, and a great number of hard-bound and paper-back books. Video cassettes may be checked out at the Trouble Desk and can be viewed on VCRs located in several lounges.

    Additionally, special events are scheduled throughout the season. These may include the Scott's Hut foot race, a chili cookoff, talent and other performance shows, an art show, bingo nights, and holiday celebrations.

  8. CLUBS: The Navy operates three clubs at McMurdo Station. The Erebus Club offers liquor, beer, and soft drinks--and several times a week, a limited food menu. The Erebus is designated no smoking two or three nights a week. The Southern Exposure is a smoke-free club where alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served. The Coffee House offers a smoke-free setting and serves specialty non-alcoholic beverages.

  9. LIQUOR SALES: Personnel may purchase liquor and wine in the package store in Building 155; beer may be purchased in Building. Alcohol purchase is rationed. Ration cards, which must be obtained by those who want to buy alcohol and who will be on the ice for more than 30 days, can be obtained in the E-Side of the dining facility or in Building 63. Please watch the scroll for the schedule. Weekly rationing is as follows: one bottle of liquor or two bottles of wine or one case of beer. Field-party groups may obtain their alcohol rations prior to deployment to the field. The Chalet staff will assist with the proper forms and procedures.

  10. SHUTTLE SERVICE: During the summer, a regularly-scheduled shuttle service is available for transportation to and from McMurdo, Scott Base, Williams Field, and the ice runway. The shuttle system primarily serves those with work-related transportation needs; folks wanting to travel for personal reasons may be asked to debark if the shuttle becomes over-crowded.

  11. TROUBLE DESK: Located in Building 140, the ASA Trouble Desk is a main point of contact for the McMurdo community. The Trouble Desk staff fields information questions and maintenance or work requests, distributes mail to the civilian community, files foot plans on personnel recreating outdoors, and administers the videotape loan program. In summer, the Trouble Desk usually remains open 24 hours a day.


McMurdo Station has the only large-production saltwater distillation plant in Antarctica. Seawater is distilled at about 50,000 gallons per day. Still, demand can easily outstrip supply during the busy summer season, and mechanical problems and other unforeseen difficulties may curtail water production significantly.

Therefore, all McMurdo residents must conserve water rigorously. During normal operations, you may wash your clothing once a week and you may take a shower every other day or as posted. Showers consist of no more than two minutes of running water. Water faucets should not be left running while washing hands and brushing teeth. Should a shortage occur, washing machines may be placed out of service and showers may be restricted.

It is in everyone's best interest to practice water conservation continually.


The USAP employs Hercules (LC-130 and C-130), Starlifter (C-141), and Galaxy (C-5) aircraft in airlift operations. The USAP maintains ice runways and prepared skiways. During the summer, these planes fly between Christchurch, New Zealand, and McMurdo, carrying passengers and cargo. C-141s and C5s are wheeled jet aircraft and land only on the annual sea ice runway. Ski-equipped Hercules aircraft (Hercs) and Twin Otters land on the ice runway or on a prepared skiway in the open field. Depending on the time of year, both types of runways are used for flights to South Pole Station, field camps, and occasionally to other stations.

Regular intracontinental resupply flights carrying fuel, cargo, and passengers, are scheduled several times a week, or more frequently, on a turn-around basis. Aircraft remain at an inland station for the minimum time necessary to unload fuel (usually about 20 minutes) and cargo (variable).

The flight schedule is published by VXE-6, the Navy's antarctic flight squadron, and is posted late in the day on the LAN and in some USAP buildings. The flight schedule includes intracontinental helicopter schedules and fixed-wing flight schedules to, from, and within McMurdo for the following day.

All fixed-wing travel for ASA personnel is arranged through the Passenger Coordinator located in the Observatory (Building 77). The Chalet staff coordinates fixed-wing travel for the science community, distinguished visitors, and the NSF.

The Helicopter Operations Coordinator in MAC Center schedules helicopter use. If you request helicopter support, you will receive a booklet titled "Helicopter Operations and Safety Guide" which contains information of special importance to these operations.

Science parties needing to verify requests for air support can contact the Helo Ops Coordinator or the Operations Coordinator in Building 58 (for fixed-wing requests). These personnel will ensure the request is on the agenda for the next Air Operations Board meeting. Do not attempt to arrange air support directly with VXE-6.

The Movement Control Center (MCC) coordinates cargo destined to arrive at McMurdo, cargo for transhipment to inland stations, and retrograde cargo. The Operations Coordinator facilitates cargo movement to inland stations and return, sets priorities for the LC 130 flight schedule, and publishes the Twin Otter Schedule.

Because of the nature of antarctic operations, flights are subject to delays. Since weather conditions are so critical, decisions to fly are often made on very short notice, and flight times may be advanced or delayed several hours. The best way to stay informed is to keep in touch with the Chalet or the appropriate Passenger Coordinator.

Upon arrival at McMurdo, scientists will be asked by the Chalet administrative staff for desired redeployment dates to Christchurch, New Zealand, and to the United States. It is necessary to keep the Chalet staff informed of any changes so scheduling can be accomplished as needed. The Chalet will also require details about ticketing and a complete itinerary 10 to 14 days prior to departure.

In conjunction with supervisors and the Resident Manager, the Passenger Coordinator (located in the Observatory) will coordinate redeployment for ASA personnel.

Flights from New Zealand to the United States become more crowded each year. It has become increasingly difficult to change itineraries, particularly during the December holiday season and the end-of-season redeployment crush. While staff will make every effort to honor your requests, flight schedules in McMurdo and Christchurch are likely to cause some changes to your proposed itinerary. Please be flexible and patient.

When reporting for flights or upon arrival in McMurdo, use the transportation provided for your flight. Unless specifically authorized, personnel are not to drive out to the airfields to meet flights, as increased traffic also makes landing operations more hazardous.


The USAP recognizes the morale-boosting potential of space-available travel to the South Pole; thus, several dedicated space-available flights will be scheduled--operational requirements permitting. Seats will be divided between the military and civilian population on a per capita basis. Civilians will be selected by lottery and will be approved through the Chalet. Note: do not board any aircraft unless your Supervisor and the Chalet know and you have been properly manifested for the flight.


The MCC, Building 140, handles all antarctic cargo and passenger movements. You will collect your bags here upon arrival at McMurdo, and report here for all fixed-wing flights, including redeployment. Please note that the MCC is extremely busy. The USAP Cargo Supervisor is your contact for cargo concerns. In matters of travel, contact the proper coordinator in the Building 77 or the Chalet.

The Cargo Supervisor must have completed retrograde log forms for each piece of cargo bound for vessel retrograde prior to your departure from McMurdo. If your equipment or data is time-sensitive and must travel by air from Antarctica, approval from the NSF Representative is required, and the cargo must be turned over to USAP Cargo 48 hours prior to the desired flight. Documentation in the cargo system is imperative because undocumented cargo entrusted to a friend, crewman, or an anonymous person is cargo that most frequently goes astray and cannot be traced.

In the event of lost or stolen issued clothing sunglasses, the resupply function of USAP Cargo in Building 58 should be notified.


Science groups who have identified their vehicle requirements in advance can contact the MEC, Building 58, to check-out a "pool" vehicle.

Other pool requests are assigned according to priority. Since the MEC receives many requests, vehicle check-outs are scheduled and reviewed daily. Adherence to the schedule is greatly appreciated. Trips to Scott Base, Williams Field, recreational excursions, social visits, etc., are to be undertaken on foot or via the shuttle service.

You must have a valid driver's license and be checked out on vehicles by personnel in Building 58 (Building 17 for ASA personnel) for operation of any vehicle.

Building 58/Building 17 personnel who assign vehicles to you will brief you on their operation. ASA recommends that you check the fuel, tires, antifreeze, and engine oil and that you warm up the engine before use. Vehicles left idling for long periods of time waste fuel and release pollutants into the atmosphere, so please avoid this practice. When returning the vehicle, please fill the tank to prevent moisture condensation, and report any defects, however slight. Early diagnosis helps keep the vehicle from costly, time-consuming major repairs.

A speed limit of 20 m.p.h. prevails in the narrow streets of McMurdo with posted lower speed limits near Building 155. A limit of 20 MPH prevails on the McMurdo-Williams Field snow road. As in any driving situation, road conditions vary. Gear down when needed. In the vicinity of the helicopter pad, Building 129, all operators must be familiar with instructions on safe distances between vehicles and helicopters. These instructions and authorization to enter the helo pad in vehicles must be obtained from the helicopter maintenance personnel.

Weather conditions may cause travel restrictions between McMurdo, Williams Field, Scott Base, and the ice runway. Please adhere to current radio check-in and check-out procedures and obey MAC Center's instruction during foul weather conditions. Radio check-in and check-out to MAC Center are required for all vehicular travel to locations outside McMurdo other than on roads directly to the runway facilities or to Scott Base and Williams Field. The MEC Supervisor can provide full radio procedures.


An icebreaker, a fuel tanker, and a cargo ship (resupply vessel) arrive at McMurdo each season during January and February. Other research vessels and excursion ships may arrive during the course of the summer season. Science field parties using ships for transportation must coordinate any cargo or equipment movement through USAP Cargo, and the cargo must be at the Ice Pier at least a day before sailing. All passengers using ship transport should be prepared to board anytime up to 24 hours before scheduled sailing time since rapidly changing weather and ice conditions influence the ship's schedules. The Chalet will have current information on ship operations.


Central Supply, upstairs in Building 140, provides common use items for McMurdo such as office and cleaning supplies. Your contact for obtaining these items is the Material Control Specialist in Central Supply.


Satellite and radio communications are monitored on a 24-hour basis during the operational summer season. Field-party radio frequencies are also under continuous surveillance for personnel safety. If, after 24 hours, no radio contact is made from or with a field party, Search and Rescue (SAR) procedures may be initiated and an aircraft sent to locate the party. If you are in the field, it is imperative that you make the daily radio safety check-in required by ASA's Field Operations Communication Center (FOCC), call sign MACOPS.

All requests for radio communications with Christchurch, New Zealand, inland stations, field parties, and ships or planes must be cleared by the appropriate USAP agency. Requests for official use of satellite communications for data or voice services must have appropriate approval.

The primary mode of communications for McMurdo is provided by satellite service. Incoming calls are routed as required, and windows for each agency's business are scheduled. Emergency calls can be made any time the satellite system is accessible. Personal phone calls can be paid for by purchasing phone debit cards, calling collect, or by charging to a Visa or MasterCard.

An amateur radio facility, the Ham Shack, Building 186, is operated by the U.S. Navy. It is staffed by qualified volunteers and is for the community's use. When atmospheric conditions permit, the Ham Shack can offer the opportunity to make a phone patch to family and friends in the United States. Procedures and sign-up for the use of this service will be posted on bulletin boards outside the dining facility and appropriate areas elsewhere.

Science groups, who have provided information regarding e-Mail/data requirements in the Science Information Package (SIP), have access to computers in the Crary Science and Engineering Center (CSEC), also known as the Crary Lab. Internet Services are provided.

Although the satellite communications systems at McMurdo are very reliable, service outages which affect voice and data communications can occur.


Computers throughout the McMurdo community are supported by Information Systems. Support includes installation of new computers, repairs, software training, and a help desk to assist with problems and to answer questions. The help desk, open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, is the main point of contact for computer- and software-related problems and is located in Bldg. 133.

Computer support for the Crary Lab is provided by science support personnel located on the 2nd floor of Phase 1 of the CSEC.


Fuel conservation is of primary importance. Scarcity of this product and increased costs have a major impact on the operational program. Your compliance with published antarctic energy conservation measures is required. Keep room and building temperatures at a comfortable level (65 F or lower) and turn off all unnecessary lights.


In 1990, McMurdo Station developed and implemented its first formal recycling program. Since then, Waste Management has continuously upgraded the program to maximize recycling efforts. During the 1993-94 season, the USAP recycled 70% of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The program stands as a model for other communities and is a point of pride for the USAP community.

Except for human waste, all waste generated by the USAP is removed from Antarctica and returned to the United States for disposal. Because of strict Federal and State regulations on this process, it is crucial that waste be handled effectively.

The key to McMurdo's recycling program is careful source segregation: as careless separation of waste in McMurdo can result in material being unfit for recycling, it is everyone's responsibility to separate waste effectively. You will be briefed on the details of McMurdo's recycling program. Please be sure you gain a thorough understanding of your part in the recycling process; make sure your questions are answered. With a little practice, you'll find the separation of waste materials into a myriad of containers will become second nature--a process you expect to continue when you return to the world.


McMurdo Station is inhabited by people whose backgrounds are diverse, but whose common mission in Antarctica is the continuation and advancement of scientific research. As in any community, a distinct social structure develops as a result of individual interests, goals, and associations.

The entire community has an opportunity to understand and appreciate the purpose of its mission in Antarctica, an exchange of ideas and explanation of science projects is highly encouraged. One means provided for this exchange is the popular Sunday night science lecture series usually held in the dining facility. Research scientists and their field parties are encouraged to bring slides and other educational materials to Antarctica for such events.


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