4 December, 1996
When we waken at 6AM it is cloudy. We hope it will clear up so we rush to breakfast, gulp down food, check out a van, get the survival bag, dress in ECW gear and head for Willie Field. As soon as we round the hill over Scott base we realize that it is still too cloudy to get photographic data. We return to McMurdo and go work in lab for a while. We left most of our gear in the van so we can make a quick getaway if the weather improves.
At 10AM we try again to go to Willie field. No dice. We checked at McWeather and were told that even though nearly the entire area was sunny, there was a cloud bank over the Ross Ice Shelf where we wanted to go. That's disappointing.
We return to do more lab work until the next crisis arrives. Dr. Braaten cannot find three long poles that are connectors for his apparatus. We searched in the lab, in our cage, on the loading dock, at the helo pad, at Berg Field Center and couldn't find them anywhere. They just disappeared. We all think we remember bringing them back from our remote field site, but no one can say positively. New ones will have to be made and all equipment must be at the help pad for weigh in tomorrow at noon. Tomorrow will be very hectic.
In addition, Suruj broke his finger closing a loading bay door. Our concern is whether he can go out in the field tomorrow to help Dr. Braaten. Neither Jennifer nor I have as much strength so it will be difficult if Suruj cannot go. We all hope his finger doesn't swell any
more. The medics at the hospital taped it up and have given Suruj lots of pain killer.
We worked in the lab before dinner and after the science lecture. I didn't get to leave lab until 11:15PM.
The science lectures on Wednesday evening are rather technical. Personnel in the science groups are expected to attend. There are also science lectures given on Sunday evenings which are less technical and meant more for lay people. This evening's lecture was by a Frenchman who had worked with the Russians at Vostok. They are working on digging the deepest ice core. His research was very interesting.
Prior to lectures they always give some new facts. The South Pole now has 171 persons living there. Maximum capacity is 172. McMurdo has 1050 people. Once again there has been someone on the Polar Duke (research vessel/ice breaker) in the Weddell Sea who has come down with appendicitis. That happened three weeks ago. This time a Norwegian crew member got ill. There was no way for the Polar Duke to get him to the hospital in time, so a helicopter from a Brazilian ship picked him up and then transferred him to a ship from Uruguay. This ship delivered him to the tip of Chile and the Chileans transferred him to a hospital in Argentina. What incredible international cooperation! That is the way things are done in Antarctica. It is sad that nations cannot cooperate similarly in other areas.
The Russian scientists from Vostok are staying in our dorm. The sauna is in the ladies bathroom on our floor. To be hospitable, it was closed from midnight till 2AM so they could enjoy a nice sauna bath before going back to Vostok. (If you have a map of Antarctica, look where Vostok is.) Vostok is the most isolated base in Antarctica. All their supplies are brought to that base by converted tanks. NO PLANES. Can you imagine? This summer alone, helicopters have carried 321,000 pounds of supplies in and out of McMurdo. That doesn't include the Hercs nor the LC130's. This base would shrivel up and die without airplanes.
Speaking of airplanes, we may get to take off in an airplane with skis. They are trying to use the current runway as long as possible, but they keep having to move the road leading to it. I can look out the window of the Crary lab and watch them moving snow, etc. The huge trucks look like toys against the vast expanse of white. I am amazed at what man must to do survive in this climate. This is the most unforgiving climate in the world, but I think it is also the most beautiful.
Well, it is past midnight again, and time to crash. I hope it is sunny tomorrow!
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