20 November, 1996
Today I was a grunt for half the day and a lab rat for the remainder. Now it's 1:00 AM and I'm wired because I drank a lot of coffee to keep me awake in the early evening. I guess I over did it.
We established a new dive location today, about two miles from McMurdo. A special drilling rig drove on the ice to make the dive hole and an old dive hut was towed over it with a large spryte. The real physical work fell on Pat and I. If the dive team had to get back from the hut in low visibility they would need some sort of a trail to follow. That met having to place bamboo poles with flags every two hundred feet from the dive hut to the existing flagged route leading to the station. If you have ever tried to stick a pole in the ice you know it won't go. To accomplish it, we had to drill a series of sixty holes about a foot deep with a hand drill. Pat carried the flags and poles and I did the drilling. We had several problems to contend with. The first was we didn't know exactly where we were going, we had an idea of the general direction but that's about all. The second was the ever-present cracks in the ice. We wanted our route to cross perpendicular to them so we wouldn't end up losing a spryte. After we finished the two-mile route we had to walk back to the dive hut.
The route looked like it was set by a drunken sailor, but we felt it would work in an emergency. When Jim saw our route, he felt we had to set a more direct course. That meant we had to reset the flags and re-walk the route. By the time we had finished we walked six miles wearing eight-pound boots carrying sixty flags and a five-foot hand drill. For the next few hours Jim wasn't very popular. Sometimes doing science doesn't seem like science at all.
In spite of the physical demands, it is interesting to have a job with a variety of activities each day. We all take our turns doing the grunt work and everyone realizes that there is more to doing science than being in a laboratory or doing field collections.
The problems we face are somewhat similar whether they are in the lab or in the field. We are given a task and a limited amount of time and resources to get it completed in a safe manner. When it's done it's on to the next problem. Here, a person who can quickly solve problems and work well with others is and important person. Fortunately, we have a number of people with those skills on the ice.
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