3 January, 1997
January 3, 1997 9:16 PM Today I experienced my coldest day in Antarctica. I worked for approximately one half of an hour at the teeth chattering temperature of -12 degrees F. I had no gloves on and only a wind breaker to keep me warm. Fortunately, I was requisitioning frozen foods from the supply station and could leave the freezer at any time. Outside the temperature was a sunny and pleasant 35 degrees F. Boy, was I glad to leave that freezer. I think a lot of people will be disillusioned to hear that weather at McMurdo is often very pleasant at this time of the year. Since we arrived on December 31 we have not seen a single bad day. Although the temperatures have usually been in the 30's, they have sometimes reached the low 40's. And the sun shines on and on and on. Bruce Marsh, the primary investigator (PI) in our research in the Dry Valleys arrived last night. Bruce is a geologist at Johns Hopkins University. He will lead and direct us to sites in the Dry Valleys that he believes may hold the key to his theories on the formation of igneous rock. This is his fourth season in Antarctica. Last year he did a careful survey of the Dry Valleys by helicopter and determined where to do the final investigations for his last season here. Last years survey will save us a lot of time and probably lead us to some of the most valuable pieces in the rather complicated geologic puzzle of igneous rock formation. Bruce is very easy to work with. He demonstrates an interest in a broad range of topics. At a single meal we might discuss books, history, movies, and, of course, geology. More importantly he has a keen sense of humor which helps to keep things in perspective and fits in well with the other personalities in the group. We also met with Mike Parfet from the National Geographic Magazine. Mike is working on an arcticle about the Dry Valleys and plans to visit our site. In addition to Mike the National Science Foundation hosts reporters from the PBS science show, NOVA, other reporters, artists, and free-lance writers. These people allow a variety of perspectives on Antarctica to be presented to the public. The intellectual atmosphere in Antarctica is unlike anything I've ever seen. There is a genuine interest by support staff and scientists in everything going on. There do not seem to be boundaries between the various disciplines. Example: A petrologist (a geologist who studies rocks), a marine biologist, and a physicist sat down at lunch time, all meeting by chance. Each asks the other what they are working on. A number of questions are asked to clarify the research. Suggestions are made from the perspective of the discipline of each of the scientists. Eventually, the physicist turns to the petrologist and says, "I want you to calculate a wavelength for me." The physicist then describes an unusual visual phenomena in an area where he was doing a s urvey. He draws a picture of the area, describes the wavy surface of the ice, and then asks for the wavelength of the structure. The petrologist, with all the appearance of an eager student, begins setting up an equation. A! s he works he continually asks Over the past few days we have done a lot of preparation for the field work and we finished up most of the work today. Todays work included bagging and boxing everything. Weighing everything And then hauling everything to the helicopter port. The weigh ts are extremely important because the helicopter load masters must distribute the load carefully and not put too much weight on board. Although everything was hauled to the port today (Friday) it will not go out until Monday. With most of our work out of the way, Jon, Mike, and I plan to do a long hike to a place called Castle Rock tomorrow. Castle Rock is all that remains of an ancient volcano that has almost completely eroded away. The region we are in (Ross Island) is a part of a chain of volcanoes 1000 miles long. Ross Island is made up of three volcanoes, including the still active Mount Erebus. For those of you who have read Dom Tedeshi's wonderful journal and wonder what's become of him, he is still here. Still working about 14 hours a day (which is not at all unusual for an Antarctic researcher). His work has taken him to many wonderful places around the continent. I certainly envy him for his travels. One last thing. I want to make mention of D Bear, the geography bear that was sent along with me by a student at Hodgson. D Bear is doing fine but stays in her room most of the time. She seems most comfortable laying down on the desk top where I do most of my writing. She will be going with me to the Dry Valleys later. I'll try to get a picture of her, the Delaware flag, and the Dover High volleyball and football emblems and post in on the website.Return to Bill Philips' Page
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