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21 December, 2003

Home again, home again, jiggery jig!

I am sorry that I was not able to log some journals in the last few days but the Beardmore camp was in the process of being razed, and we (G298) were a bit of a complication to the process. The staff did everything it could to accommodate our needs but sometimes, as we have learned, things in Antarctica do not work out smoothly. Weather and aircraft problems cut a big swath into our work schedule so we needed more time on Kirkpatrick. However the master plan did not call for the camp to be open past the 17th of December because they had to move it to the Moody Glacier where other scientists are to begin their work.

Breaking down a camp is no small task. The fuel, cook tent, com tent, mechanics tent, pilots tent all have to be taken down and moved then set back up again. Gear, people and aircraft have to be moved too. So we were trying to get one more day on the bone bed to remove some more material that had important fossils embedded in it. We have jackhammers, cut saws, pry-bars and a host of other heavy equipment that must be brought down along with the fossil bearing rocks. The weight of the tools and rocks plus the altitude made this a problem, so we brought most of the equipment down early so if we could not get back there, we would leave nothing behind. We were also asked to pack up what we had already mined, plus our tools so they could fly those out prior to the final day. This left us with a jackhammer from the MEC, which we have never used before and a pry bar. Back up on Kirkpatrick the jack hammer malfunctioned so we were left with just picking up what we could, do a quick recon about the rest of the exposed formation and get back down to camp.

Back at camp, we got our selves ready to ship out but found our flight was not going to be in until midnight the following night. This gave us some time to kick back and relax a bit, a welcome respite from the frenetic pace set trying to make up for the weather and equipment delays of the earlier weeks. I went for a walk towards what I thought was a nearby outcrop. It turned out to take 50 minutes to get there. Another indication of how in the expanse of Antarctica, distances can be deceiving, especially to an easterner like myself who is used to the tight confines of the Adirondacks.

We spent some time going over the fossils and making sure we had them properly packed for transport but soon arrived at a point where we could do nothing but wait for the plane. After a period of time packed with activity, the next few hours seemed to stretch on forever. Finally we heard the Herc and soon spotted it on the horizon and a little after 1 AM we were on our way back to McTown.

We will spend the next few days working on cleaning the gear for return to the Byrd Field Center and packing up our rocks for shipment. I am catching up with the other scientists I met before we left for the Glacier on their experiments. TRACER was launched and has already made half an orbit of Antarctica. Jojo is hopeful to get two orbits before it is brought down. David Saltzberg, also reported things going well with his experiment. We plan to have a get-together at the Crary lab to show slides and discuss what we all have been doing of late. This is one of the best things about this place, that is how every one is excited about their projects and are eager to share their science with all who are interested.

So that about sums it up for now, it is Sunday and a day of rest around here, so I think I will grab some of that for myself!



Dino sits on a petrified stump to help give scale to the image. The tree was found in the Gordon Valley, what I lake to call the "Enchanted forest".

Unique weathering pattern on the igneous dike on a bluff overlooking the Beardmore camp.

Beardmore camp from the bluff above. I am approximately 3 miles away from the camp when I shot this image. It should give you an understanding of the size of the glacier.

Peter Braddock awaits the Herc flight to get us off the Glacier. Time is midnight in this picture.

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