18 November, 1996

Nov. 18

Min. temp - 9.5 C Max temp + 0.1 C wind 6 knots prevailing, 22 knots max

Once again we arose early so we could get to breakfast before the galley closed. Breakfast hours are 5:30 - 7:00AM. The food here is only so-so, but I thought it might be worse.

After breakfast Jennifer and I changed into wind pants, fleece jackets and light parkas with gloves so we could go back out in the snow in bright sunlight to check how our apparatus works. It was a success, but we discovered we need an added weight to attach to the tripod to keep it sturdy in wind. We will also need to make some kind of device to act as a sunscreen. Perhaps we can use a black garbage bag and bamboo poles.

Next we decided to really check out our gear stored in FOC (field operations center). We had looked at it but not closely. This time we really counted things. We checked out the sleeping bags..... did the zippers work? ...... were the fleece liners included? ...... did each have two pads? So you see, we were busy for several hours. We looked in the 4 person kitchen kit. Wow, they think of everything! I am constantly amazed at how well things are organized so every field team has what they need.

I met Dominic Tedeshi, the other teacher here now at McMurdo, at lunch. He is having a very stimulating time. I hoped to get down to his lab again, but we ran out of time today.

Next step is to pick up the radios at 3PM. The radio operations center is so amazing. We have to pick up and get instructions on the use of VHF radios and HF radios. The Very High Frequency radios are the hand-held sets. We had been shown them at our Happy Camper School, but the refresher was good. We also need two High Frequency radios. They come in heavy plastic boxes to protect them. The antennae wires are included as are solar panels to power them up if the two batteries lack power. They seem to think of all possibilities here. It is a case of life or death when people go out to remote sites. We will be assigned a special number and time to call into the McMurdo Operations Center each day so they can hear that we are OK. The HF radio set-ups cost $6700 each because they are so sturdy. The solar panels alone cost more then $1000. You have to use solar panels because batteries don't last very long in the extreme cold. The solar panel for the VHF radios will recharge the Ni-Cad batteries. Perhaps I can find a way to have them recharge the batteries for the videocamcorder I brought down to photograph. I need to check it out tomorrow.

We need to take the radios out in the field nearby and check them out by trying to use each frequency and contact different places like the radio operations center or South Pole. We had to check out a vehicle and chose to drive out on the ice beyond New Zealand's Scott base. The entire process took another two hours and we got pretty cold. (We had not worn our ECW gear and regretted it.) Now we remember the warning not to go out in vehicles without taking extra gear. It was such a beautiful day; we didn't think. Fortunately everything was fine, but it just took longer than we thought.

As we were driving out to the site to check the radios we passed by the edge of the Ross ice shelf. You can see large ripples in the ice some places. Other places you can see where the ice has buckled and it sticks up in the air. The scenery in this place is breath taking!

As we travel we have to follow the correct flagged area. Areas with red or green flags are OK to walk or drive on, but black flagged areas should be avoided. There are so many things you must remember.

The area where we tested the radios is close to the position where Happy Camper School was carried out. Because some people work farther out we saw some traveling back to McMurdo after work. Two were jogging and one was on cross country skis. It was such a lovely day that people had to be out in it to enjoy it. It did get about 1/10 degree above freezing and no breeze was blowing. The sky was clear and beautiful blue. We have been told that we are missing some of the true Antarctica weather. I'll gladly miss that opportunity, thank you.

After dinner in the galley, we spend some time writing e-mail messages, but I think we'll go to bed early. I am already exhausted and it is only 8:30 PM.

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