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12 December, 1999

McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica


Attended my final Mass in Antarctica this morning. Baring any weather delays or malfunctioning equipment, I will be leaving Antarctica on Thursday. The rest of my day was spent in the laboratory. Because I am separated from the rest of the group (they are in a different room), Julie, Maite, Mark, and Bess periodically come in to chat with me while I put my gas shots into the gas chromatograph at 10 minute intervals! This alleviates, to a certain degree, the incredible tedium! My friend Rob stopped in and talked with me for almost 2 hours! His work is complete and he is scheduled for 'bag drag' tonight (do you remember 'bag drag' from my Christchurch days?). There are many people trying to leave McMurdo at this time to ensure that they make it home for the holidays. Each person is prioritized. The higher the number you have, the more likely you are to get bumped from a flight. Rob has number 17 so his chances of missing tomorrow's flight, is slim. We will celebrate his departure with him tonight. Tomorrow, we are finishing our work by 11:00 a.m. and hiking 7 miles to Castle Rock for an Antarctic picnic! I only hope that the weather holds! It is a bright, clear day. It is very cold!

A twin otter airplane crashed today in East Antarctica. Only the pilot and copilot were aboard and no one was hurt. They have fuel, shelter, and enough food for two weeks although a rescue is expected within 24 hours if the weather is good. The crew is about 800 miles from McMurdo.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY'S QUESTION: Don Juan Pond is considered the saltiest body of water on Earth! It is so salty that it doesn't freeze! Lake Vanda is permanently covered with 4 meters of ice just like Lake Bonney. Lake Vanda, however, supports two completely different ecosystems. The upper layer of Lake Vanda, just under the ice, is terribly cold and nutrient-poor. The lower layer is 4 times saltier than any ocean and maintains a temperature of +25 degrees Celsius! That's room temperature! There is some debate over the cause of this incredibly warm temperature. Would you expect to find a warm layer of liquid UNDER a colder layer? What happens to hot air? Why does the warmer layer stay beneath the colder layer? That is your question for tomorrow!



I attended my last Mass in Antarctica! I hope that I am able to come home on Thursday.

I worked in the laboratory today. Many people came to visit with me. Julie, Maite, Mark, and Bess stop in every now and then and my friend Rob visited today too. He is going home tomorrow so we will celebrate with him tonight.

An airplane crash landed today in East Antarctica! Only the pilot and copilot were on board and they are just fine! It's important that they have plenty of food and a place to stay warm. It might take several days to rescue them!

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY'S QUESTION: Don Juan Pond is so salty that it cannot freeze! Lake Vanda has three layers. The top layer is ice, the middle layer is very cold water and the lower layer is water that is very salty and at room temperature! That is very warm! Scientists wonder why the water is so warm. No on knows for certain!


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