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13 December, 2001

"A Day in the Life of a Meteorite Hunter"

If the title, "Meteorite Hunter", brings to mind visions of Indian Jones or Laura Croft, Tomb Raider, think again. Here's what a typical day in the life of a meteorite hunter "really" looks like.

6:30am Oh, my goodness, there's the alarm. How can it be morning already when it never was night?! Time to start the gas stoves to heat up this tent!. What is it, a balmy 0 degrees today?

7:15am The water's boiling. It's time for breakfast: instant tomato soup, hot chocolate, and a granola bar (only partially frozen). Yum! We top it off with juice that states on the box: "Serve well chilled". Since it's still frozen, I guess we're in the ballpark.

7:45am Time for a run to the "poop" tent. Nuts, the black flag is up outside the tent. Someone's in there. Guess I'll have to wait in line.

8:00am Gotta get dressed. Let's see: long underwear, fleece layer over that, wind bib, sock liners, socks, 10 lb. bunny boots, parka, glove liners, gloves, balaklava, cap, neck gator, and finally goggles. 20 minutes later and I'm good to go!. Oh, no! I have to pee again!

8:45am Everyone on the team is scrambling (stumbling) out of their tents. The early risers have been up for awhile. The rest of us get busy packing up our skidoos (there's Charlie, Biscuit, Gravy--among others).

9:00am Huddle time! It's time to meet with our team to plan our work day. The work site is up for a vote. The vote is tied, so a short wrestling match between our two leaders determines the site.

9:15am We're "on the road" for an hour's ride to our first search site. What would appear to be a "lovely skidoo ride" over snow-covered ice is, in fact, very challenging.

The packed ice is actually sastrugi. Beautifully carved by the wind, sastrugi can actually be wicked! What may appear to be an innocent sand dune on one side, could very well have a sastrugi cliff edge on the other. Riding over these can be dangerous and is definitely uncomfortable! (Forget Suzanne Summers and her thigh master. If you want firm thighs, sastrugi riding is for you!)

If that wasn't enough to watch for, the ice is also riddled with crevasses filled in with snow (snow bridges). The crevasses range from a few inches to several feet wide and a few feet to several hundred feet deep. It doesn't take much to break open a snow bridge, so every effort is made to avoid them, or at least ride perpendicular to them.

9:42am While avoiding the sastrugi and crevasses, a team member sights a meteorite out of the corner of her eye. (Yes, gentlemen, "she". Meteorite hunting is part of a women's world, too.) The OC (ordinary chondrite)--which looks very much like a charcoal briquette--is quickly measured, photoed, bagged, and tagged.

9:52am We're on our way again.

10:00am In spite of the increasing overcast weather, another team member spots our second meteorite of the day--a small OC The record keeping begins with several team members sprawled on their stomachs to complete the "bagging and tagging". Our PI hums a happy little tune.

10:10am We continue on our way to the search site, carefully riding over minor sastrugi and avoiding the wider crevasses.

10:20am We arrive at our search site and stop to rearrange our positions for a systematic sweep of the ice field. Lined up side-by-side about 50 feet apart, we slowly begin traversing the field. Because we are far from any terrestrial rock, any rock sighted here would more than ikely be a rock from space!

We travel slowly across the field searching for any rock in sight. Every few hundred feet our "wing men" must pull out staked flags that mark last year's search site on one side, and put in new flags on the other side to mark this year's search.

10:30am It is at our first "flag stop" that a team member discovers a "flaky" rock. We know right away that she's found one because she's jumping up and down and wildly waving her arms. The specimen is another chondrite, but it must be foil wrapped to prevent it from falling apart.

By now everyone is happy, and the discussion veers toward sightings of lions, tiger, and gorillas . . .

Continued at a later date . . . and the day has just begun!

Stoves must be lit before there's any breakfast or heat! __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Send your FREE holiday greetings online! http://greetings.yahoo.com

Nancy demonstrates her finesse at putting on her bunny boots. __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Send your FREE holiday greetings online! http://greetings.yahoo.com

We line up for a systematic search of an ice field. __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Send your FREE holiday greetings online! http://greetings.yahoo.com

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