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2 December, 2002

2 December, 2002

A restless night tending the computer. Phillipe Herquet, my Belgian physics professor roomate, was persuaded by me to knock out a French translation of the AMANDA video. (I had all the working files on my computer, as I just finished an English version a few days before I left). But the computer was responding slowly, and it was frustrating because it would stop recording, so I tried to defragment the drive, but the directory was bad, blah, blah. Typical computer story: all fixed by about noon, with me tending it every few hours in the night.

Breakfast was very light. They do a big Sunday brunch, but if you get up early, it's not much. But we put on some cold clothes and Christian, Phillipe & I climbed to the top of Observation Hill. It's very steep, and the real test is to regulate closely the clothing so that you're not too hot, and not too cold. And once you're at the top, bundle up quickly, as the wind cools you off very quickly. I wore jeans and sneakers, which turned out to be a fine choice, as the day was sunny and the wind was even lighter than yesterday.

Scrabble up the hill, deceptively large, but there's no scale, not even a bush to tell you how far away the top might be. Very loose volcanic stuff, like everything around McMurdo, so pretty slippery and tiring. What a view at the top!

Mt. Erebus, Antarctica's only active volcano, belching away. The station down below. Big snowplow blower tractor making a big arc of snow in the middle distance, clearing the road out to the runway. The famous Dry Valleys across the frozen bay, New Zealand's Scott Station down below, and a cross to commemorate Scott & his four companions, dead on the way back from the pole.

On the way back, Phillipe & I followed the road through an industrial depot area. We discovered prefab parts earmarked for the new South Pole station, and the depot for the helium balloon experiments. Balloons are used in high altitude research. If you put one up at McMurdo, it tends to come right back in a few days: convenient! We also found some old steel fuel tanks, cut open. Fabulous echo!

After brunch, Phillipe & I returned to the the tanks and used contact microphones to do some site recordings. The results were really spooky & good. We placed the contact mikes under some steel slabs cut out of the floor, and listened through headphones. Anywhere I touched the tank, even the far side, LOTS of sound.

Got back, and went to read email on the very slow computers downstairs. Here's an email from my wife that made me laugh :

Rico (my 4 year old, very feisty son) had a good time at the zoo with his uncle Don, who takes very good care of him. We were driving to Chinatown and talking about Emilia and how she didn't like to eat exotic foods. She said, "Yes, I do!" My sister responded,

"Well, Vietnamese people eat monkey brains." So she said in her fake innocent voice, "I would eat some," so Rico blurts out, "Well, let's just drive back to the zoo and get some monkey brains out of the monkey and stuff them in her face so she''ll shut up!" Very appropriate, and he hadn't been saying anything so it was very efficient.We all laughed because she is a nonstop chatterbox.

Phillipe & I went back to Hut Point for some more kite flying with the big kite (Poppa) and the full electronic remote control digital rig. I wanted to try McMurdo which I had gear, because we had to check bags at 7pm tonight. The rig worked fine, but Poppa was not quite strong enough to lift the rig. Hopefully, I'll get another chance here at McMurdo.

I met, quite by accident, the main NSF tech guy, at bag drag, because he's also going to the pole tomorrow. Nice conversation, with net result that I was able to connect to the www and upload lots of movies I've been working on.

Looks like Pole tomorrow !

A panoramic of a helium tanker truck used to fill high-altitude research balloons. Antarctica is a good place to do high altitude ballooning, because they come right back to where they start. And because of 24-hour sunlight, ozone depletion, and the earth's magnetic field, charged parcticles enter the atmosphere easily and at a high rate. My friend Eric Zager did his PhD thesis on JAYCEE, a balloon based cosmic ray experiment.

The view from Observation hill, looking south over McMurdo sound toward the Dry Valleys.

The view from Observation Hill, looking north toward Mt. Erebus, Antarctica's only active volcano.

Back on Observation Hill, to close. The following spring, a search party found Scott and 3 of his companions not too far from a food cache, on their way back from the Pole. But a horrible blizzard stopped them in their tracks. This cross was erected in 1912 as a memorial. Lots of people look at it every day now, but there were many years in the early part of the 20th century when it sat alone for years at a time.

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