19 January, 1997

>The following entry is taken from the hand-written journal after the
>failure of the solar battery.  A freshly charged battery was returned to
>the Dry Valleys from McMurdo when the helicopter came in to take us on a
>1/19 Sunday, 9:20 PM
>Blast all machines!
>It seems pretty simple---you ask a few silicon chips to convert a blazing
>24 hour sun to a few watts of electricity and what do the chips do?  They
>metaphorically spit in your face and refuse to do their job.  So here I
>sit, ink pen in hand, writing my journal the old fashion way.
>Today is Sunday.  We rest on Sundays.  Not!  What we actually do is sleep
>in and then work until late at night to make up for lost time.
>I knew I was in trouble when Bruce asked me to go with him "just a little
>ways" to look at some granite.  Today "just a little ways" with Bruce meant
>eight hours of hiking over scree slipping, sand sliding, ice cold blowing,
>sweat spewing miles with a 3700 foot ascent thrown in for desert---and
>delight ful scenery, pleasant conversation, and a major find.
>Bruce wanted to check out a wedge of granite that separated the Basement
>Sill into two channels.  We both wanted to see what would happen to the
>oxypyroxene crystals (OPX) when they encountered the wedge.  We never found
>7:40 AM 1/20
>Called away to dinner last night   I found the solar cells got off their
>rear ends and did some work for a change so I worked until 12 AM
>down-loading Quick Take pictures.
>Now, back to yesterday.
>...After clawing sideways through scree and sand we stopped at a high ridge
>to see if we could spot the granite.  Off in the distance we saw it---but
>it was the wrong distance; we had walked past it without seeing it (this is
>very easy to do on a scree slope where things are obscured).  So back we
>crawled (actually, I'm the one who crawls; Bruce stays upright).  As we
>screed through the slippery debris Bruce kept repeating, "Something really
>weird happened here, Bill."  He often paused to break off a piece of rock
>and hand it to me while asking, "What do you see?"  Before responding I
>made several intakes of air that sounded much like someone responding to
>CPR.  I appeared to examine the rock carefully as I gasped a few more life
>saving breaths.  At last I could concentrate on the rock and let my natural
>reflexes take over the breathing again.  What I saw was rock with little or
>no OPX.  In the outcrops of rock around us we could see vertical strands of
>feldspar---such strands were horizontal every place we had studied, except
>Bull Pass.  Indeed, something weird was going on.  We climbed higher and
>higher.  Bruce knew he was on to something and just watching him work and
>discuss the terrain gave me the strength to keep up.  At last, we saw what
>appeared to be the solution in the rocks high above us---a fissure (crack
>in the earth where melted rock can move) that ran for miles.  This fissure
>appears to be the SOURCE.  The source of the miles and miles of black
>diabase sills in the dozens of mountaintops around us.
>Higher we climbed until we reached the fissure itself.  The rock appeared
>different from anything we had sampled so far.  Both of us were thrilled by
>the discovery.
>By coincidence, Mike, Jon, and Zach were high on the opposite side of Bull
>Pass.  From their vantage point they could see something weird about the
>rock as well.  Each hour that we contacted them by radio (this is a
>required safety procedure) they would report something new about what they
>observed.  Bruce would answer, "We're standing there now.  Tell us what you
>see."  Their reports complimented and confirmed what we were seeing---the
>It was about 9 PM before we returned to camp.  The return trip included
>sledding down a snow covered slope,moving downhill through a refreshing
>bath of knee high snow, and gently sliding down and down over the sand that
>that resisted our climbing.  It was a great hike and an exciting discovery.
>Speaking of discoveries.  I never finished telling about the discovery made
>on 1/17 at the Friis area.  I think I have enough battery power to finish
>that story now (knock on silicon chips).
>You may recall that on 1/17 we were searching for a contact between two
>layers of rock---the Basement Sill and the Peneplane Sill.  Bruce had seen
>what appeared to be a contact in aerial photos and had tried to find it
>during the previous two years of research in the Friis Hills.
>The evidence was all around us---very black pieces of rock with very tiny
>crystals.  If we could find the source of these rocks we could find the
>margin of contact.
>I started searching with Mike.  Mike is a very careful and meticulous
>observer.  Soon he identified an area that had a high concentration of the
>black pieces of rock.  However, this evidence can be deceptive---the rock
>is washed down from higher up and sometimes collects in great numbers in a
>lower area.  This can be very confusing.  I searched the area thoroughly
>for an outcrop.  After a while Bruce and Mike joined me while Jon and Zach
>went over to a different area.  Bruce and Mike pointed out that there were
>some black pieces above where I was searching.  This meant that there must
>be a source higher up.  And it wasn't long before Mike found the source,
>high above the area I had searched.  Bruce and Mike were thrilled.  Bruce
>could now date the Basement Sill as being younger than the Peneplane Sill.
>Maria was there to record the event for National Geographic.
>This discovery is not earth shaking, nor is it as important as the one I
>discuss above.  What is important is that another piece of the puzzle of
>the formation and the evolution of the earth was found.  It contributes to
>further research and new discoveries.  It validates the scientific method
>through careful observations and the collecting of evidence.  And for those
>involved it gives immense satisfaction.
>Tired and happy we headed for the glacier and lake below us to enjoy its
>phenomenal beauty.
>Once again the battery fades.  Curses!
>8:27 PM  Solar cells are alive again and so am I.
>Let's continue with the activities of 1/18.
>When the helicopter pilot, John, picked us up at the glacier at the bottom
>of Friis Hill we then proceeded to Marble Point to refuel the helocopter.
>It was a beautiful ride.
>At Marble an evil practical joke evolved in my mind.  The joke involved
>three elements:  Jon's shyness around women, the fact that you can't tell
>who is talking on the helicopter helmets unless you recognize the voice,
>and a very pretty woman headed for McMurdo (I'll call her Cheryl).  When we
>got back on the helicopter Cheryl asked me how to hook up the sound on her
>helmet.  I helped her to hook it up, but I turned the sound off.  After
>take-off I turned my head away from Cheryl and Jon and said, "Hi Cheryl, my
>name is Jon.  I'm sitting across from you next to the large window."  I was
>about to say more but Bruce began laughing so hard when he recognized my
>voice that I started to laugh as well.  I noticed that Jon was not
>laughing; he looked surprised.  I then turned up Cheryl's microphone, acted
>as if nothing had happened, and pointed out the features we were flying
>over to her.
>When we returned to our camp in Bull Pass I took a sandwich and my extreme
>cold weather jacket up the Pass to be alone for a while.  On the way I
>stopped to collect a sample of the long dead seal (maybe hundreds of years)
>to take to McMurdo for analysis.  Altogether, we have seen three seals who
>crawled to their deaths, far from the safety of the Ross Ice Shelf.  For an
>animal lover it is sad to see, and very hard to understand why they do it.
>I then walked to the "Sydney Opera House" rocks and sat down among the
>weirdly shaped hoodoos to listen to music.  It was a wonderful evening.
>Near the horizon were beatiful cirrus clouds that looked like gold fire.
>Above the golden fire were patches of clouds, edged by blue.  The blue
>looked like water and the patches like wind sculpted ice.  What a wonderful
>feeling to listen and look and to feel the solitude of one of the most
>spectacular places on earth.
>Much has been said about the solitude you can find here.  My two favorite
>quotes come from Borchegrevinck and Scott:
>"...the darkness and the silence in this solitude weighs heavily on one's
>mind.  The silence roars in the ears.  It is centuries of heaped up
>solitude. " Borchegrevinck, Norway, 1897
>"For countless ages the great somber mountains about us have loomed through
>the gloomy polar night with never an eye to mark their grandeur, and for
>countless ages the wind-swept snow has drifted over these great deserts
>with never a footprint to break its white surface."  Scott
>I do not find in the valleys the description that Milton gave in Paradise
>Lost, Pt. II:
>Beyond this flood a frozen continent
>Lies dark and wilde, beat with perpetual storms
>Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
>Thaws not , but gathers heap, and ruin seems
>Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice.
>But I am only visiting a small part of  this giant continent for a brief
>time under ideal circumstances.  I can experience the romance without the
>awfulness that Scott found at the South Pole, "Great God, what an awful
>place this is."
>I returned to my tent about 12 midnight.

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