5 November, 1999
Got up at 0110 hours, beat the alarms again, just has to be those nerves; showered again, maybe last one longer then two minutes for the next two months (more on this latter); packed and got picked up by the shuttle and taken to the CDC. There were 104 of us scheduled to take this flight, 48 who had already had their flights scrubbed for the past five days and the rest were the new people who basically arrived in Christchurch with me.
We stripped off our street cloths and put on all the required gear: insulated underwear, polar fleece shirt and bib, wind bibs, wool socks, bunny boots, hat, goggles liners and gloves. We then put out street clothes and anything else we wanted to keep with us on the plan in the carry on duffle, everything else went in the hold duffle. I kept out: my shoes a shirt a pair of pants, one shirt, one sweater and one set of underwear, my digital camera, my 35 mm camera, some disks, some film and my toiletries. I could live without all the rest of my stuff: cloths, film, battery chargers, binoculars and other "stuff" for a day.
We then did the famous "bag drag"; that is when you carry, but really drag, (because they are too heavy and too bulky) all your luggage to the check in point. For this entailed dragging two orange duffles, a regular military duffle and my laptop. It does not sound bad, but keep in mind you are dressed for 65 below zero and the ambient temperature is more like 60 above zero. Sweat, drip, sweat, more drip, within an hour, about the time you get checked in and weighed in, you look, feel and undoubtedly smell like a drowned rat. While Waiting in line I was speaking to the CDC supervisor and I asked if Dr. Jerri Neilsen had been redeployed through Christchurch. He said yes, and that it was done in the fastest way humanly possible; in fact, "she was home in the states before the media knew she even left the ice. Good to hear. I can't imagine the hell this poor women went through diagnosing her own breast cancer, administering her own chemo and then having to live with this nightmare in the most desolate and isolated place on earth with no personal family support. Having just lost my bride to cancer (it will be 2 years on November 22nd at 1140 hours) and knowing first hand the horrors of this disease all I can say is: "Dr. Jerri Neilsen you are one hell of a courageous lady".
Once we get checked in , it was now about 0345 hours, we all began to strip off layer after layer, and throw them on the floor . We then began to lay around in the great heaps clothes using our duffles and parkas for bedding as began to wait around for our flight which would "leave" at 0600 hours.
I struck up a conversation with a fellow named Karl Kuivinen. We were talking about previous trips to the ice, my first 7 years ago and his first 31 years ago. He has been to the ice scores of times since then. It turns out that Karl is the Director of the Polar Ice Coring Office of the Snow & Ice Group and he an a man named Bob Morse (A fellow I had met at the phone the first day in Christchurch when he recognized my Boston Accent. It turns out he was raised in Haverhill, Massachusetts.) are basically in charge of drilling at the AMANDA site at South Pole Station.. (Exactly what Bob Morse's position is I d not know, but, hopefully will find out tomorrow in McMurdo.)
Much more on the AMANDA project later, but for now, basically what Karl has to do is to drill holes 2000 meters deep through the ice of the polar plateau. Anyone know how many miles deep that is? (Emailing me the answer, with a big hello from back home would be nice and much appreciated.) Not only do these holes have to be deep, but they must be accurate as well. These holes are about 2.5 feet in diameter and last year lasers showed that the centers were off, at the very most, only 15 cm. That's amazing ,considering all of this drilling was done under hostile conditions (Temperatures some where between 20 and 50 degrees below zero Celsius and winds on some occasion hurricane force.) and the holes were around 2000 meters deep. Karl describes his drill as a hot water drill and told me that they literally build a power plant to heat the water to put in the hole and melt the ice. Once these holes are drilled the AMANDA team lower arrays of basketball size, pressure resistant (these I'm told are make by a company that specialized in building products for used in deep water [high pressures]) photomultipliers. These are sensors that can detect light (prefix photo =3D light) and then enhance this signal and then, through optical fiber cable, transmit this information to computers. What they are sensing is radiation (light is a form of electromagnet radiation) resulting from collisions of neutrinos and the formation muons in the ice. I will devote an entire journal to the AMANDA project later, but for now just know that it require a whole lot of very deep straight holes and Karl Kuivinen is the man responsible for getting them drilled. Karl said that he, the University of Nebraska for whom he works, and NASA are working on a possible drilling project into Lake Vostok. What I think is believed to be the largest under the ice-lake in the world. The ice here is literally kilometers deep (do your conversions to feet if you want to really be impressed) and the water below it is pristine.
Karl said that they will probably use the hot water drilling technique to get relatively close to the surface of the liquid water, then place in the hole a "hot-rocket-drill". This drill will be frozen in place, preventing any contamination from entering the as yet untouched confines of Lake Vostok. (I assume the probe will be sterile). The "hot-rocket-drill" will be signaled to start. It will begin to melt the ice below it and push down through the ice. As it melts the ice, the water will pass through its sensors and come out the top, immediately refreezing and thus maintaining a contamination free environment; real time data from these sensors will be sent top-side to the computers. When the "hot-rocket-drill" finally penetrates through the ice into the water, a "robo-probe" which is tethered and which has video capabilities and other sensors, will swim around collecting pictures and data. These data will be transmitted to the scientist anxiously waiting kilometers above this lake, a lake that has not been exposed to the air for millennia. WOW!! Serious time wild stuff!!!
About 0530 hours the bad news came, delay until 1300 hours. It was disappointing for all of use, but there are some teams here for whom this was there sixth, I believe, delay. YUK!! But I learned last time on the ice that Nature is the boss and those who don't respect her either get hurt or die. Neither of which I want, so I'll curl up on top of my parka and get some sleep. We slept, talked, some people left, others read and yet others just laid around with gear and bodies spread everywhere. At 1300 hours the lady sergeant from the NZ air force announced that the flight had been canceled do to condition #1 weather at McMurdo . (Weather conditions are rated from ideal, #3, to #2 stay in camp, to #1, danger exists, so stay indoors and let you team know where you.)
I went over to the computer lab to work on journals and send email to my family. I do miss them big time. While working on the computer I notcied that it was not charging. I called for assistance and the conclusion was I needed a new battery. Great where the heck do I do that. I returned to the Windsor and asked the gal at the desk. She gave me two possible places so off I went. The first place was very busy and all I could think of was what if they don't have the battery and the other place closes. "Yo Self, I love stress. It makes me strong". I finally got waited on and no luck, but, the salesman called the other company for me. Still no luck. He said there was another place he could try, but, no luck there either. Such is life!
Bummed out I walked to the center of town and found a restaurant and ate by myself. I was not really in a mood to talk anyhow. I got back to the Windsor around 1945 hours most people had gone out. We have a 0515 pickup in the morning so that means an 0400 hours wake up. So I am off to bed.
Penguin Peter the Polar MaN
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