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21 November, 1999

I went to church Sunday. Some of you who know me well might be choking right now and, yes Antarctica is a long way from St. Pius parish, but I went to the Catholic service at the Chapel of the Snows. The mass was presided over by Fr. Bede Haughey, a parish priest from Waimate, New Zealand. Fr. Haughey had just arrived in Mactown. It is his third season here and he replaces the priest who had just left. There are other ministers who serve the people of McMurdo including a minister who has been coming to Antarctica with his wife for 7 seasons. I also met Fr. John Coleman who has been coming for 16 seasons. He says he loves the work here because it gives him the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people directly in a personal way.

About 25 people attended the mass I went to. Another TEA, Sharon Harris from Ohio, played the guitar for the service. The Chapel of the Snows is a very quaint little retreat on a ridge overlooking McMurdo Sound. There is a stained glass window over the altar that has an image of the Antarctic Continent and a penguin incorporated with various religious symbols. When you stand in the center aisle of the chapel, Mt. Discovery, a beautiful mountain on the other side of the sound, is framed in the window. It is very awe-inspiring. The service was very friendly and comforting.

There was a bit of excitement in Mactown the other day. The largest passenger transport vehicle, The Terra Bus, fell into a rut in the road leading from the ice runway. It was quite a site seeing this huge vehicle tipped sideways with the people who had just arrived in Antarctica inside wondering what in the world was going on. They eventually got the people off and pulled The Terra Bus out using a bulldozer. It was big news in McMurdo. In fact, a picture that I took of the incident appeared on the front page of the town newspaper, The Antarctic Sun.

This incident emphasized one of the key problems with logistics in Antarctica. Airplanes coming to McMurdo now land on the sea ice runway near McMurdo. This ice is smooth and wheeled aircraft can land on it. Eventually, this runway will become too soft for wheeled aircraft. In fact, the C-141 aircraft I came in on no longer makes flights from Christchurch. C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Air National Guard and the New Zealand Air Force now handle the flights. I will talk a lot more about the Air National Guard and the C-130s in a future journal.

There is another runway they use later in the season that is on the permanent ice shelf call Williams Field. The ice shelf is covered with packed snow, so only the ski-equipped C-130s can land there. Williams Field, or "Willie Field", is also further away from Mactown making the movement of people and supplies more difficult. So they try to use the sea ice runway for as long into the season as possible. One of the reasons they may have to start using Willie Field is that the road will become impassible. The main trouble area is at the "transition" between the shore and the ice. Because the tides cause the ice to move up and down, a crack or hinge forms parallel to the shore. This is where many vehicles can get stuck, or worse, fall through the ice. They are constantly grooming this road, parcticularly the transition, so they can continue to use the sea ice runway. They build up the snow and even put in bridges across the transition. Despite this effort, the road gets quite soft in the summer sun and forms huge ruts. Some large enough to swallow a Terra Bus!

My evaporation experiment is going well now that I am using the plastic pan. I will publish the results next week. How is your experiment going!

Starting Monday I will be talking about some of the historic huts located around Ross Island that were used by some of the famous Antarctic explorers like Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott. I had a chance to visit these huts and I will tell you all about it. What do you know about the early exploration of the Antarctic Continent?

Today's featured CRP Team Members are three other members of the palynology team. They are Ian Raine and John Simes from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in Lower Hutt, New Zealand and Mike Hannanh, an Australian who works at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Ian and Mike study the palynomorphs (pollen, spores and dinoflagellates) found in the core samples to determine age and environment of the rocks they were contained in. John Simes works with me in the playnological processing lab. Together, the members of the palynological group call themselves "The Pod". I am not sure why. Can you think of a good reason for calling a grouping of palynologists a pod?

The stuck Terra Bus and the road to the sea ice runway.

What do you do when the biggest vehicle in town gets stuck?

The Chapel of the Snows, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The stained glass window inside the chapel.

From left to right: Ian Raine, Mike Hannah and John Simes. Pod People!

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