7 December, 1999
Tuesday December 7, 1999
Woke up at 0730. I slept like a baby, the temperature was probably 15oF, but I was as warm as toast. Only problem was my toothpaste froze. Straightened up my tent, boy did it need it. Then I just laid back and starred for about 1/2 hour at the most gorgeous scene not more then 20 meters from my "front door". I am truly blessed to be here. Then I got dressed and went down to have tea. I met Thomas (Nylen), the glaciologist, he said to meet him back at his lab at about 1030 hours. When I showed up he handed me a pair of crampons, cleats that you wear on your boots that allows you to climb ice walls; and an ice pick. This is used as a walking stick, an ax and a safety device. We were off to do science and I was as happy as a penguin in -1.28o Celsius water. Yahoo!
He had two tasks: one to drill out a new hole for a bamboo pole not too far from my tent and the other to climb up on top of the glacier and measure a pole's new position. What Thomas does is to monitor the movement of the glacier. He drills a hole into the ice and places a bamboo pole into it and then over time sees what happens to its depth in the ice, its slope and its location on the earth..
Once the hole is drilled he takes four measurements from the surface to the top of the pole and averages them together. This provides the average height out of the, since it is not perfectly vertical. Thomas then measures the inclination (slope) of the pole and the slope of the ice with a tool called an inclinometer. Each pole is tagged with a brass marked and each has its GPS position fixed to within I believe a millimeter.
The first pole, as I said was probably 30 meters from my tent, required the most work other then the walking with 40- 60-lb packs on our back. We had to carry everything we needed: gasoline drill, drill bits (they come in meter long sections we had four with us), equipment, supplies, water bottle, pea bottles, trail mix and the ever present cameras.
Thomas had to climb up on the face of the glacier and drill a 3 1/2-meter deep hole to put a pole in place. I stayed below and handed him the equipment and shot some video that he was making for his family for Christmas. Thomas is a soft spoken, extremely knowledgeable, most responsible, most meticulous and a very pleasant young man. I am honored that I had the chance to work with, and actually to help this young dedicated scientist. Thomas is finishing up his Ph.D. work at Portland State where he has been working for Dr. Andrew Fountain.
This process took probably 40 minutes, then we left the drill and augers there, grabbed our backpacks and started to climb and climb and climb. I am not afraid to admit this was totally exhausting. We had great weather , relatively mild and a gentle breeze; but I had to stop and rest and to get a drink. This was perfectly fine with Thomas. When I ever swung around to look back from where we came, what I saw was amazing. First to realize that we had traveled so far and so high, and then the view.
We had been walking on the left gravel and rock strewn side of the Canada Glacier. Between us and the glacier there was a "valley" (maybe 20 meters wide) where the glacier had receded and left behind an almost a perfect row of glacial moraine. I had commented to Thomas that it looked like the stone walls we find in New England. He agreed. It really was amazing. From our vantage point we could see Lake Hoare far below and to the right, immediately in front and to our left was the Canada glacier and far beyond it were five other peaks with glaciers in between each. It is almost a religious happening. We had stopped just in front of one of Thomas' 100+ flagged poles. As we were standing looking at it from about 30 meters away and another 20 meters above, it calved. That's right, we were there just at that moment when the ice that it had been placed into many years ago, probably to a depth of 3 1/2 meters had ablated and/or moved away. This was less likely to see, then winning the lotto "big game". I was impressed and when I saw how impressed Thomas was I was really impressed.
After resting we proceeded further up this valley (I would guess a mile +/-) to a point where the glacier wall became about 20 meters tall and had much less steepness to it. Here Thomas, very patiently I might add, helped me put on my crampons. These crampons go over your boot and they have tweleve 1 inch by a 1/2-inch teeth that you must force, all twelve, into the ice to prevent from slipping. The danger is slipping and sliding to your death (or at least needing some serious body work) or if your lucky, ripping you leg open on the crampons.
There is no way I can describe how hard glacier ice is. I swung my ice pick as hard as I could and maybe penetrated 2 ". It really is amazing. Thomas gave me some lessons on how to use the crampons and the ice ax. The plan was for him to proceed to the top of the glacier and I was to go only part of the way up. My task was to "sneak up upon and capture" the different equipment as Thomas needed it.
While on top of the glacier Thomas asked me to proceed up valley and read the identification numbers on the next two pole. This I did, very gingerly I might add, and with great trepidation. But I did what I was asked to do. Ya!
I shot some video footage of Thomas descending the glacier face. Then we sat and talked for a while. I am truly impressed with this young gentleman. We had some trail mix and water and started back for Lake Hoare field camp.
Going down the mountain was not as easy as I thought it would be, especially with a full backpack. As we proceeded down the mountain Thomas went down and to the left, stopped and beckoned me to come and take a look. There laying, at least 500 feet above the valley (Lake Hoare) floor, oh ya, and at least 15 or 20 miles from the nearest ocean, was a dead, I think, crab eater seal. It was totally in tack and because of the cold and extreme dryness was totally preserved. "Mummified". Wow, first a penguin and now a seal. What wonderful place I am in.
From here we had about another 30 minutes to camp. We got there just as we said we would when we signed out, 1430 hours. I brought my gear to the main camp and came in and made myself a tea. Then I started downloading pictures. I had a number of shots of Thomas and I told him I would put them on a disk for him. This I did and he was quite impressed. He now has something he can send to his special lady friend back in Portland. Actually, he asked if he could borrow my camera and I had to reluctantly say no, for it was not mine to let other people use. He said he understood. I hope so, for I would not want to offend such a fine man.
I went back to my tent and slept for a couple of hours, then just laid there staring at the Canada Glacier from my "bedroom". Tough life we live here in Antarctica. I came to the main camp and ate dinner and spent the rest of the night on this journal.
I also notified Eian, the NZ hydrologist, that I would not be going into the field with him on Thursday. Barbara wanted to go to a place called mummy pond and I think she had to be with some one in order to go there. It will be fun and maybe I'll learn why they call it mummy pond.
Penguin Pete the Polar Man
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