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17 December, 2003

Almost Done!

Tonight as I write this from the com tent, "cmdr" (Commander) who's day job here is a carpenter, is singing folk songs from the '60's in a mellow tone and Andy, the camp manager is completing his model of a Harley Davidson. The Communication Tent is usually a busy hub of activity but as the science groups leave, the pace has slowed and because of the reduced staff, the helicopters do not fly past 8pm and the coms are silent.

They are slowly breaking down the camp, piece by piece tent by tent in preparation for its move to the Moody Glacier where new expeditions will be mounted, leaving the Beardmore Camp looking like a prairie dog field with its tell tail burrow mounds. The tents are vanishing but the snow walls that were erected by the inhabitants to protect their tents from the wind stay behind, the only evidence of our stay here. In a few months not even that will remain, and the glacier will look as it always has for the last few thousand years.

This day and song session are parcticularly melancholy as we left the Mt. Kirkpatrick site for the last time, leaving many of the bones we came to get still entombed in the mudstone where Cryolophosaurus came to rest one hundred and ninety million years ago. We logged just six days of work on Kirkpatrick but removed nearly 1,200 pounds of rock and displaced several tons getting it. We did find ample reasons for Dr. Hammer and Nate Smith to return. You see, the more you collect the more questions arise and there is also the determination of the new bone bed that Peter Braddock found still pending. That will take a few years to happen however, because there are proposals to write and processes to follow to get back here. It is a long, demanding process but if they can convince the National Science Foundation of the merits of their proposal another field season will be launched.

Yesterday, Dr. Hammer and I stayed in camp packing up the specimens and gear so the Herc Flight today that would carry Dr. Hammer and Dr. Curie back to McMurdo would also carry the bulk of this expedition's spoils. We boxed, labeled and palletized the specimens and gear for travel then took the remainder of the time to dig out the cook tent that was nearly buried in the last windstorm. Around 6 PM, the helicopter came in from Kirkpatrick with a 600 pound piece of mudstone slung under it. It contained several bones of the Cryolophosaurus. That was the net result of their days work up on the mountain. Today, Peter, Nate and I went up to try to remove several other pieces, but the drill malfunctioned and we had to content ourselves with a few pieces that we could pry out and pick up loose. Kevin had worked himself too hard the day before and had to stay in camp because the altitude would worsen his condition. After we collected all we could, we did a recon around the site looking for new bones but finding none, we returned to camp a bit disappointed.

Due to a storm back home, my Monday "Real Audio" web cast was cancelled but I was able to do that this morning. This meant two mornings in a row waking up at 3:30 am to talk with my students at 9:45 eastern time. That, coupled with the workload here I did skip two journal entries however I do need to sleep, even if the sun doesn't.

Friday, we head back to McMurdo to get the camping gear turned in and the bones readied for transport for when the ship arrives in McMurdo. So we still have a bit of work to do. Tomorrow however, we are planning a short trip back to the Gordon Valley to photograph the forest of petrified tree stumps and retrieve some gear, then we will return to camp to prep our gear for breakdown.

So all in all it has been a very exciting field experience and I have several things to look forward to. First learning more about what we did actually retrieve and second, Dr. Hammer will be coming east to visit our school to discuss the importance of the expedition. I am also looking forward to sharing my experiences with various groups in hopes of stimulating more interest in Antarctic exploration. This will be a last entry until I return to McMurdo because my communication link will be down until then.



Unloading the 600 pound slab from the bone bed. This was slung underneath the helicopter.

Nate Smith makes his last field notes from the bonebed on Mt. Kirkpatrick.

Scientists and staff leaving the Beardmore Glacier camp.

The dots in the center of the image is the helicopter and the rock slung below it. It is on its way back to camp from Mt. Kirkpatrick.

cmdr (Commander) sings ballads in the com shack. Making our work environment very pleasant.

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