30 October, 1996
Today was a typical New Harbor day except we had a special visitor. A helicopter brought in James Barker, a professional photographer, who was going to spend the day working at the camp. He is in Antarctica on an NSF grant to do a photo essay of the people who work here. He did get the whole group to stay still long enough for a few pictures.
We didn't finish with supper and clean up until 10:00 PM. Since it will be our last day at the camp, I wanted to get to the Commonwealth Glacier, about three miles up the valley. I had heard stories about 3000 year old mummified seals that had been found in this region. For some unknown reason these animals traveled miles away from the sea ice. When they died, the cold dry climate preserved their bodies. I had hopes of a chance encounter with one as we hiked up the valley. The only sign of life that we encountered were the remains of a skua.
At 10:00 PM Gamini and I started walking south, we carried a VHF radio so we could stay in contact with the base camp. After about one and a half hours of walking we reached a solid wall of ice about sixty feet high. The ice had a very unique blue green color. Although the glacier was a spectacular sight it was the sounds that made the greatest impact on me. When the winds are not blowing, there are no sounds in the valley. There are no animals, no birds, no flowing water, and no human sounds. Near the glacier, an eerie creaking and moaning from the wall of ice broke the quiet. Although the glacial wall looks very solid and stable, the river of ice is moving under its own weight at a rate of 100 to 200 meters a year.
We got back to the base camp at 1:00 AM. I took the last picture after midnight to show how light it stays throughout the night. Jim and Chris were just coming back from the dive hut when we arrived. This type of field research would not be suited to a person who wanted to work an eight-hour day!
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