26 October, 1996
At 6:30 AM I got a message that the flight to New Harbor was delayed until 8:30. At 8:15 I walked into the waiting hut at the helo area and was met by a scruffy looking guy who asked me if I was flying to the Dry Valleys. I assumed he would be a passenger with me. When I replied I was, he said let's go and jumped into the pilot's seat. He turned out to be a very good pilot and a real nice person who just needed a shave. Another lesson about not judging a book by its cover.
The flight across the Sound was spectacular, when we arrived, I jumped out with 38 pounds of frozen food, my extreme weather clothing, cameras, and two extra pair of underwear. The area around the camp looked much different than at McMurdo. Only about five percent of Antarctica is free of permanent ice. This valley is one of the few places on the continent where you can stand on the ground rather than the ice.
Pat and Jenni came out of the hut and showed me around. The tour didn't take long, two semi-cylindrical canvas rooms connected by an alcove. One room was set up as a dormitory and the second as a combination eating cooking area. I noticed that there was a toilet seat hanging next to the door. Jen explained that they kept it inside so it would be warm when used. When you go out around here everyone knows what you're up to.
Because of the cold dry climate, organics don't biodegrade, that means we leave nothing, and I mean nothing, behind. Everything is bagged, tagged, and flown out, even wastewater. In spite of Spartan conditions, it is warm and cozy. We don't have lights but since the sun never sets, it isn't a problem. The day was extremely busy and we worked hard getting the dive hut together. A group of carpenters was flown in after breakfast, constructed the dive hut, and flown out before supper.
Two dive holes had been blasted and they were filled with fifteen feet of ice chips that needed to be cleared by hand. The dive hut is one half mile from camp and all our equipment must be hauled over the ice in sledges. I think I had more exercise and activity today than I've had since I've come to Antarctica.
This is a beautiful continent. We can enjoy its beauty because we have the support of hundreds of people. I can't imagine surviving without the support team, there would be no food, water, or fuel, and its cold enough to kill. I've gained a new respect for the early explorers.
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