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11 October, 2003

Recovery at Black Island

Today began yesterday. It was one of those times when things just do not go right unless you keep trying. We started the day hoping we would go out on the helicopter, but it was too foggy for that. So we quickly switched to the Mattrack, a vehicle that has tracks instead of wheels. There was an instrument only about thirty miles away by Black Island and we thought we would drive over the ice shelf to get it. We fueled the vehicle, packed lunches and left. As soon as we were on the ice we had a fire. The emergency brake was still engaged and flames were coming from it. A quick douse with the fire extinguisher, a trip to the heavy shop, and then a new vehicle and we were on our way again. This time we drove carefully, following all the flagged routes. There are crevasses out there, so we had a field guide with us who showed us the best route using a GPS unit. The instrument was only a few miles off the flagged route. It had landed between White and Black islands. We used the ELT signal to locate it as well, but this did not work until we came to within 300 feet of the unit. The GPS located it to within 40 feet.

The instrument was in good shape, snow had blown into it, the parachute had blown away, but Jason's thermometer was still intact.

After seven hours out there, we returned and decided to launch a balloon at midnight. Unfortunately we went with a rubber balloon. Half way up it froze and burst. We had to launch a plastic one instead, and quickly if we were to catch the air parcel above us. This time it worked, we stayed up till 5:30 in the morning tracking it. The next day our helicopter flight was cancelled again, which was just as well since we all were tired.

Sunday is here, and people relax. A lot of people will go skiing, and I hope to catch a ride on a piston bully to Cape Evans to check the fish traps.

Out on the ice searching for the instrument.

The fire occured here where the brake pads are located.

Starting the day, it is very warm, about 2 F.

The heavy shop is where all the big machinery is repaired.

A view of White Island and the mattrack.

Close up of the mattrack. It is not as strong as a Piston Bully but it is a whole lot more comfortable.

Found the instrument but a certain physics penguin was already there waiting.

Scanning the area for the parachute. Believe it or not our guide Matt found two 9 volt batteries that had dropped out of the mast. We have to be wary of crevasses.

A close up of the permanent ice shelf. It is hundreds of feet thick, and a very nice blue color. Soft snow on top covers it.

The satrugi are the bumps in the snow caused by wind. They are very hard to drive over and get more intense the closer we are to the island. Our speed on the mattrack is limited to 15mph.

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