29 November, 1996
Nov. 29 Ferrell Remote Camp in AM; McMurdo in evening
McMurdo Min temp -11 ° C Max temp - 5.7 ° C Prevailing winds 14 knots Ferrell Min temp -13.3 ° C Max temp - 7.7 ° C Prevailing winds 16 knots Woke up at 5AM feeling as if I have a serious stomach upset. This makes me panic. It is really difficult to go to the "bathroom" from a tent. This is what it entails
1. Quietly slip out of a sleeping bag without disturbing my tent mate. (This is a task because there is a large mound of snow that has deformed the tent walls and hangs over my head. (I bump into it every time I sit up.)
2. Put on fleece liner pants and top over the heavy long underwear I wear at nighttime.
3. Put on the wind pants which by now are frozen so stiff they
can stand alone
4. Change into my wool socks which fit best in the boots.
5. Put on the bunny boots.
6. Put on the balaclava and knit cap.
7. Put on the snow goggles over these and hope they warm up enough so they don't fog up when I go out.
8. Put on my heaviest parka and zip it all the way to the chin. Flip up the fur lined hood because it's cold outside even
though it is sunny.
9. Open and close the tent door without letting in too much drifting snow. Climb UP to ground level, twist around and zip the tent
So I make an unusual decision. I decide to take my sleeping bag and fleece liner and put them in the cook tent. It is nearer the "potty" tent and is on level ground. I even decide to sleep in all my ECW gear except the boots because I don't have the extra foam pads. After a rocky night they are surprised to find me in the cook tent. By 8AM I seem to be OK. Thank goodness.
We call in to MacOps and let them know that all four are fine and wait to check from helo operations to confirm when we are to leave today. They say it will be about 2:30.
Today was very hectic. From the time we got up until tomight there hasn't been more then a few moments rest.
We needed to get our sleeping kits removed from the tents. A sleeping kit is comprised of a foam pad for insulation, an air filled pad for comfort, a very warm sleeping bag (Everest brand), a fleece liner, and a pillow. All have to be carefully rolled up and placed in a large waterproof canvas type of bag. The bags may be waterproof, but there is so much blowing snow that everything must be hung on lines to dry by tomorrow.
We need to pack up the human wastes, food wastes, burnable waste, cans, jars and plastic in separate plastic bags so they can be disposed of properly when we get to McMurdo.
The major task is to take down tents. Our dome shaped Sierra mountain tents are almost completely encased in snow on all sides. The layer is very thick and was the result of drifting snow in the 3 day blizzard we had. Even though we had built snow walls on the wind side of the tents, the tremendous winds and snow accumulation just drifted them in. We dig, and dig, and dig for about 5 hours. Yes, that's right, 5 hours digging in the snow trying to get to the bottom and retrieve the tent stakes, untie the lines, etc.
All the apparatus Jennifer Stewart and I used must be packed up. The flags we left in the snow earlier must be retrieved. We eat our last meal in our tent (bread, canned apricots, hot oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc. and fill our water bottles. Now it's time to clean up the mess in the cook tent and pack up the kitchen box.
It is already 1:45 and it will be a hustle for a 2:30 pickup. Dr. Braaten makes the last minute call to tell the helo operations the direction of the prevailing winds and what the visibility is. Now it was my turn to take down the HF radio antenna, solar panel, etc. so they can be packed away. This was one of the last things we planned to do before taking down the cook/radio/lounge tent. (Our radio has always been perched on a box inside this tent.) You don't want to lose your connection with the world until you know someone is really coming.
It was fascinating to see the two helicopters come to get us. "Did you call for a taxi?" the pilot joked. Two helos came: one a 212 "huey" which is the same kind of chopper used in Viet Nam and the other an AStar, which is smaller (read my journal earlier). Each came with an extra ASA person to help us get the gear in the choppers and to load the heavier, long gear in nets to be carried below the helo. Scott tents are too long to place in choppers. The New Zealanders just strapped them on the skids of the helos, but PHI doesn't do that. These people were so helpful. It was a relief to be going home, but sort of bittersweet. We were leaving our "home" we had been in for 7 days. This was such a fascinating place.
The helo crew helped us disassemble the two Scott tents. They are much easier to put up and take down than the Sierra Mountain tents, but are a LOT heavier. It takes several people to put them up or take them down. Dr. Braaten and Suruj, the fourth person of our group, are going out in the field for two more days, but will only take one Sierra tent. That will make it much more of a hardship than we had with our four tents.
The trip back to McMurdo was gorgeous!!! The view was much better because this time I am on the side of the helicopter which faces Mt. Terror, Erebus, etc. We could see some crevasses as we flew over an area we hadn't visited. This 40 minute ride ended about 5PM.
Now all the equipment must be off loaded from the helicopter and loaded on a 3/4 ton truck for transport. The ice cores must go to the Crary lab freezers, our special equipment must go to our lab in the Crary lab. The major portion of material on the truck goes back to the Berg Field Center. It will be briefly stored our locked cage before it gets used again by Dr. Braaten and Suruj next week or finally turned in before we leave Antarctica. The female employee of Berg Field Center is incredible. She is SO STRONG and can lift so many things. She is also so pleasant. I have really been impressed on the quality of worker here in Antarctica. Because it is such a challenge to get here, etc., these people seem to be a cut above the general population of the US.
Now it is 6:15 PM, just time for our "million dollar" showers and a dash to get dinner at the galley which closes at 7PM. The showers are called "Million Dollar" showers because you feel so good to be clean after 7 days with no bathing and not washing your hair. What really felt great to me was being able to brush my teeth without having to use a very minimum amount of water while standing at the "pee" flag.
We manage to get to dinner a few minutes before closing and gulp it down. It is nice to have someone else cook the food and not to have to melt snow to be able to have any drinking water.
We go back to the Berg Field Center and spread out our tents. They will be hung up properly tomorrow, but that is now locked up. We open any equipment boxes that were opened in the field. Everything is full of snow. It was impossible to keep things away from the snow with constant blowing snow. I finish up my day writing in my journal. It has been an exhausting, long day, but not as long as yesterday. Yesterday we worked through from 9AM Thursday (Thanksgiving) until 2AM Friday to complete necessary work. I plan to sleep as late as I can tomorrow, but the galley closes breakfast serving at 7:00, so I can't sleep in TOO late.
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