2 December, 1996
Dec. 2, Monday
McMurdo No temperature data available
Weather clear, but it is snowing still. That isn't too good for research opportunities for Jennifer and I.
I try to awaken early but am still exhausted so sleep until 7AM and try to hurry around. I plan to miss breakfast because it ends at 7:30 and will eat an orange left over from Thanksgiving and hot chocolate. When I go to brush my teeth I get locked out of my room. I am dressed except for shoes and socks. Thank heavens I at least had slippers on. Now how to get in? I don't know where there is a phone in this building and don't have any coat or jacket on. I don't know anybody in rooms nearby. Finally I make a dash for the NSF Chalet two buildings down and ask them to call housing to let me in. This was a cold but enlightening experience. Never leave your room without being SURE you have your key.
That task accomplished with a red face, I am off to lab to meet Dr. Braaten, Jennifer and Suruj. Our major task this morning is to dry out and clean all our gear from camp. We got the equipment out of the cage and then to the Berg Field Center to hang up the sleeping bags, fleece liners, and pads to dry on racks. We also hung up the tents and advise them that one has a torn door on the porch section. We really did a number on it. Since we had to keep digging it out under snow drifts for 4 days, the chances of hitting it with a shovel and tearing it were increased. I am pretty sure that I was the culprit who tore the tent, but no recriminations are made.
We also have to wash our dishes from the kitchen kit and replace them neatly. We wash out the food cans, bottles, etc. so they can be disposed of properly in labeled waste disposal containers.
On the way I met the geologist who suggested where I could find some interesting rocks and promised to identify them for me later. He graciously described each and identified the greenish crystals in them as olivine and pyroxine. All rocks on Ross Island, where McMurdo station is located, are volcanic and from Mr. Erebus nearby.
We return to lab and work the remainder of the day, only breaking for lunch and dinner. We take a short break to go to Mac Weather and ask about weather predictions for tomorrow. They show us the satellite view and suggest they think it will clear up by tomorrow evening. That still doesn't help Jennifer and I get data unless we go out around 9PM or later. I don't know if they will let us do that. We'll see.
The weather has gotten worse. There is no "definition", meaning you cannot see the horizon because of low mists, blowing snow, etc. The helicopters are not flying today either. This hampers the geologists and volcanologists who were going to fly over Mr. Erebus today and the geologists who were going to work in the field today. Everything seems to center around the weather conditions.
Because of the huge storm last week many field parties couldn't get out and are now trying to fly to their remote sites. This makes quite a backlog. Dr. Braaten needs to get out to a very remote site which is a three hour flight from McMurdo. He had planned to go Wednesday, but the only time he can go is about 8 PM. That means they will arrive at a site about 11PM and will have to work through the night. They should be picked up again on Thursday evening. I am not scheduled to go and am not disappointed. An enormous amount of effort goes into setting up automatic apparatus in the snow. The equipment must be sturdy, impervious to cold and wind. His apparatus runs on solar power and used two tanks of nitrogen gas which must be buried deep. That will take many hours to bury them. I keep being amazed at the effort that must be expended to do research in this continent. Because it contains such a large proportion of the earth's fresh water, it is not only an indicator of problems, but also a factor in weather patterns across the world. Speaking of water, I had told you that there was a need to conserve water here. All our water is desalinated by reverse osmosis, an expensive process. Thus we are told to conserve water. Showers should be NO LONGER than 2 minutes but we can shower each day. We aren't supposed to do more than 1 load of laundry per week. That hasn't been a problem yet because I keep wearing the same clothes. In the field for 6 days I wore the same ECW gear each day. All the water faucets in bathrooms, etc. are spring loaded so that you cannot just turn them on and leave them on. This reduces a lot of waste. They really make an tremendous effort to conserve here. I am proud of what our country is doing here.
I hope to be able to visit some classrooms in the Tampa area and tell them about Antarctica. I am getting permission to get a set of ECW gear for a month so I can show it to students.
My next task is to get a set of slides. I have been taking numerous pictures, but don't know which ones will develop. When we were at camp at Ferrell I had hoped to take video tapes in addition to 35mm slides. Well, it was so windy, and snowy that I feared for the camera. When I used one of my other 35mm cameras, the batteries died and the film refused to rewind. I don't know what I can salvage from that roll of film. You had to keep the camera in your parka pocket and quickly pull it out and snap a photo. You had to remember to do it in the downwind direction or your camera got full of snow. It was a challenge and I now have utmost admiration for anyone who takes photographs of cold areas.
Speaking of photography, the BBC is down here making a TV documentary about Antarctica. I hope I get to see it.
Well It approaches midnight so I will sign off for this day's saga.
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