26 October, 1999
I'm surprised by how quickly I have adapted to the change in time here. It doesn't surprise me any more when I get up early in the morning on Monday to go to the lab and see the Packer football game just starting. I know I have to wait until noon on Thursday if I want to call home so I can catch them right after supper on Wednesday in Wisconsin. After all, McMurdo operates on the New Zealand Time Zone (NZT) and that is 18 hours ahead of those places in the Central Time Zone in the Untied States. I am a day ahead because as I traveled across the Pacific Ocean, I crossed the International Date Line. The International Date Line is the imaginary line on the Earth that separates two consecutive calendar days. That is, the date in the Eastern Hemisphere, to the left of the line, is always one day ahead of the date in the Western Hemisphere. Without the International Date Line travelers going westward would discover that when they returned home, one day more than they thought had passed, even though they had kept careful tally of the days. This first happened to Magellan's crew after the first circumnavigation of the globe. The International Date Line can be anywhere on the globe. But it is most convenient to be 180° away from the defining (or Prime) meridian that goes through Greenwich, England. It also is fortunate that this area is covered, mainly, by empty ocean. (from U.S. Naval Observatory web site at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/AA/faq/docs/international_date.html). Because of this change, it I possible that you could read my journal before I write it. Think about it; If I write my journal late Tuesday evening, let's say about 8:00PM NZT, it would arrive at your computer about 2:00AM Central Time Tuesday and you could read it first thing when you get to school on Tuesday morning, Weird, huh?
But of course, I really didn't write it after you read it. Time zones are artificial methods we have constructed to keep time organized. They are essentially based on the positions of the sun (highest at noon). However, they are really more for convenience. One way around this problem is to use the same time all around the world. People who need to coordinate times with people all over the globe, like meteorologists or sailors, often use Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). UTC, which used to be known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), is the local time at the Greenwich, England meridian (zero degrees longitude). For more information about UTC, check out this NASA website at http://wwwghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/utc.html.
It is really obvious in Antarctica that time zones are artificial. After all, the sun is up all the time now. We had our last sunset about a week ago and there won't be another here until February 21st, 2000. The sun is up when I get up in the morning and it is up when I go to bed. I haven't seen a dark night sky for several weeks. The thing that keeps you on some sort of schedule in McMurdo are the regular meal times. Most activities are arranged around them. Morning breakfast, noon lunch and evening supper. There is a fourth meal time here as well called "midrats", for midnight rations, at 11:30PM-1:00PM. This is for people who are working different shifts or those who stay up late.
The food, so far, has been quite good. I have to be careful not to eat too much because there is a good variety and lots of it. They have had fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal. I have been told that, at times when flights can't get into McMurdo because of the weather, fresh food can get scarce. The desserts have been especially good! The galley is pretty much like a cafeteria line with several dining rooms. When you are done, you need to separate your dinner dishes and put the food waste and paper waste in different containers. They separate all of their waste at McMurdo. I recently talked to one of the people in charge of organizing the recycling and waste program in Mactown. I am going to visit the waste building later this week. I'll fill you in on the details in a later journal.
More work in the lab today. John and I are pretty much caught up on processing samples. Drilling will start again in a couple of days at the drill site. So far, the drilling has gone well and pretty much as expected. They are drilling through rocks which are from the Oligocene Epoch which is from about 23.7 million years ago (MYA) to 36.6 MYA. They hope to soon drill into rock from the Eocene Epoch which is rock older then 36.6 MYA to as old as 57.8 MYA. This, geologists think, was a time when major changes were taking place in Antarctica and by looking at the rocks they hope to figure out just what was happening at that time. The target depth for drilling is about 700 meters. They have already gone almost 350 metes so they hope to perhaps go even deeper than the target. I will keep you posted as the Cape Roberts Drilling Project goes further into the Earth's past.
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