14 November, 1996
Nov. 14 Journal
Minimum temp -8.3°C, Maximum temp -1.2 °C, prevailing wind speed 9 knots Today has been hectic. We rose early so we could get our training in waste management at 7:30 AM. NSF and Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) has a strong program to recycle more than 70% of all materials brought to McMurdo. Thus every parcticipant here must learn how to separate materials. Aluminum soda cans are placed in a separate container from Al foil. If aluminum materials are greater than 1/4 inch in thickness they must go to construction material category because it is too strong to be banded by the equipment here. Only by these efforts can Antarctica maintain its pristine environment. However learning all the categories can be confusing. Helpful signs are posted everywhere. A McMurdo newcomer is immediately I identified as they try to decide what to put where.
Jennifer Stewart, the student, and I then went to get certification to drive a truck. (We had to put on some of our extreme cold weather gear (ECW) because it is cooler today than yesterday and the wind is blowing. The truck is a standard 4 wheel drive with stick shift. We had to learn how to check the fluids, disconnect it from power, fill it with gasoline at the fuel station and use the radio to call into the fire station to notify them we would be leaving the area. If the weather is degrading, we must call in. If it is bad, we cannot go at all.
Next we went to the Crary lab and had to check in with a lab director. Finally we got to the lab and started organizing our equipment for use in the field. Jennifer and I noted the modifications that were made on our equipment and were pleased. Perhaps we can take it out and practice with it Saturday. We were given a tour of the Crary lab. It is amazing the myriad of types of science going on. Geologists are studying rock sections. Marine biologists are studying chemicals present in sponges in their search for possible cancer cures. Other marine biologists have tanks of sea urchins, starfish, tunicates, sea fans, etc. Such a wide array.. The sea urchins attach pieces of marine algae similar to kelp to their upper surface. The algae seems to prevent the urchins from being eaten by sea anemones.
Large coolers maintain temperatures low enough so ice cores don't melt. I found out that Florida and Colorado are two area where permanent storage is devised for ice cores. Isn't it odd that Florida was chosen?
Our next task was to try to plan a menu for 7 days in the field. We use this so we can order food for our trip. This can be very time consuming, but we are half was finished. When we finalize plans, we can have the supplies packed for us or we can do it ourselves. We chose to do our packing so we will know where everything is.
Next task is to check out what camping gear has been sorted out for us. We check out the tent and practice setting one up. Fortunately, one of the personnel shows us how to do it. I would hate to have to follow the directions on a sheet with small print in a driving storm.
New we decide we need a short break so we take a hike up "Observation Hill." This 750ft high hill gives spectacular views of McMurdo Sound and Ross Island. I only got to about 450 ft up, but enjoyed the view while Jennifer and another one from our group ascended to the top.
My glasses broke on the upper corner of the frame. We have to go to the store and try to purchase some glue. I hope this works!
After dinner we attend the Recreational training session and sign off on yet another formality. We must know rules like staying on the flagged paths to prevent falling in crevasses, etc.
Now I am exhausted and need to write a journal page. I was surprised when at dinner I was asked how long I had been here and I realize it was only 28 hours since I arrived. I am living at fast forward.
I still need to get training for helicopter use, but that should be brief. We plan to get that Monday. We also need to pick up radios and get instructed on their use. The major training session needed is "Field Safety" and that is tomorrow. We learn how to use the camp
stoves, how to pack equipment for transport and quick removal from helicopters, and most of all, how to survive in the snow without a tent. Our group of three hope to build an igloo, but that takes 3-5 hours. Won't that be neat to build an igloo?
Something that really impressed me was the sheer amount of effort that must be put in for each research project. People must send the materials down to McMurdo on time. It had to be packed and finally flown in on a plane with a New Zealand crew. Each piece of equipment must be organized and prepared for use. Food must be carefully ordered for use at a remote camping site. Tents, campstoves, shovels, ice coring augers, plastic bags, waste containers, sleeping bags, etc. must all be organized and then transported by helicopter to a site 60 miles away. Each step of the way involved a person who cares about us and wants our research to go
well and for us to be safe. All around us scientists are working on their unique project and each has to be supplied by a huge group of people. No wonder science is so expensive.
In the few hours I have been here I have been impressed by the constant discussions among those with varied interests. Each seems so enthused. What an invigorating experience.
Time to get some rest so I can cope with survival field training (snowcraft) tomorrow.
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