TEA Banner
TEA Navbar

13 January, 2003

Ice Maze and Bones

Today was the first day I asked myself the question, "What in the world am I doing here?" We took off in the ATV with jarring jolts as Jen did her best to navigate through the ice maze of Lake Bonney. At one point Erin and I were literally airborne before we crashed back onto the metal truck bed. My back impacted a wooden box and for a second I wondered if I had cracked a rib! (I didn't, but I'll bet I have a bruise.)

We stopped at the end of the East Lobe of Bonney and walked across the ice through the narrows to the West Lobe. We didn't think the ATV would make it. John drove the snow mobile hauling our equipment on the sled behind it. The ice is deceiving here. There are places that have melted and refrozen over a layer of water. The new ice is weak, so when you step on it your boot can fall a foot or more and end up in water mid-calf. At best it's scary, shocking, wet and cold. At worst you can twist or break an ankle, AND be wet and cold. Luckily I just got one foot wet and cold, but my heart was really pounding, and I was wishing over and over that I wasn't on that ice anymore!

It was a harrowing trip, but other than wet feet, we all made it to Lawson Creek. In another journal I'll describe that creek and the beautiful Taylor Glacier, but today the real story for me was the trip back home again. This time I drove the ATV through the mammoth ice maze. I drove slowly, but accelerating helped jump over small openings that did not have ice bridges. I came to one area where it was mostly huge holes and no bridges. At one point we got stuck nose down in a hole. Erin and I shoveled. She pushed as I reversed the engine, and out we popped. We turned and tried a different direction with Erin walking and trying to find a path through. I came to a rather large jump, so I accelerated, but this time the ATV nosedived into the hole. When it hit, I became airborne and nearly flew over the handlebars head first. I desperately grabbed the handles just as the machine came back up to meet me with great force. My wrist and thumb of my right hand felt an excruciating pain. I struggled off the ATV and lay in the back trying not to faint before the pain subsided. John and Erin administered first aid. After a few minutes I was able to walk, so Erin and I headed back across the lake, wishing with each step that I was already safely there, and that my husband, Terry could give me a hug! Back at camp, I iced it and assessed the damages.

It was decided that my level of pain and swelling required a trip back to McMurdo for x-rays, but that I could wait until morning so as not to require an emergency evacuation. It is now noon. Weather had grounded the heloes, but one should be here in a few minutes. Aaron, on Mary Ann's lake team, wrapped my arm in a splint after we phoned Dr. Betty for instructions from McMurdo. I'm now typing this left-handed! Journals or bust!

No worries. Dr. Betty will take good care of me, and with any luck I'll be back to work tonight or tomorrow.



I was heloed back to McMurdo and taken straight to McMurdo General where Dr. Betty x-rayed my hand and decided to put it in a hard cast to protect my broken thumb.

Dr. Betty Carlisle has more ice time than any other polar doctor. This is her sixth tour in the Antarctic, and she has been the doctor at all three US bases: Palmer, McMurdo and South Pole. Last year, when the South Pole doctor got sick, Dr. Betty had only been back in the States for a week when she was asked to take his place wintering over at the Pole. I was in capable hands, and even though she threatened to wrap the whole Stream Team in bubble wrap, she is letting me go back to the Dry Valleys to finish my work there.

And by the way, for a moment I may have questioned why I was here, but, cast or not, I wouldn't change any part of this experience. Accidents sometimes happen, even when people are being careful, as we were. It's the response to them that is important. John and Erin both knew what to do, and together we did it.

1. Here's a peek at the ice maze.

2. A deep hole in the ice.

3. The ATV with the maze in the background.

4. The narrows between the East Lobe and West Lobe

of Lake Bonney.

5. Jen and Erin walk in front of me between the maze

on the left and the moat on the right.

6. A giant crack near the moat.

7. Watch out for these. This is where the ice will

break and drop a foot into water and then another layer of ice.

8. Dr. Betty and my cast.

9. Here's a bonus picture. This is a sundog I saw

about 9:30 PM. There was a shiny small "sun" and rainbow on each side of the sun, but I couldn't get back far enough to get them both in the picture.

Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.