21 December, 1998
Aaargh the stoves!
Finally get one of the Coleman's to light, but it catches on fire on grease. I just throw it out of the tent and then wait for the fire to go out. I retrieve the stove, bring it back in and relight it. A lot of activity to make coffee, heat up the tent and wait for everyone to come in around 8.
For breakfast we have frozen canned Chili. Unfreezing the canned food requires that the labels be cut off, the cans opened and placed on the stove until the congealed mass is malleable enough to be slopped out into a pot or pan. Then it is heated and stirred until it is edible.
On the mornings that we have Dinty Moore Stew, it is imperative to remember to cut the labels carefully and neatly. These labels are the preferred letter writing paper for some members of S-156 and S-054.
I go down valley with Adam and Dave and we dig a huge - really huge "L" shaped pit in hopes of hitting ash. No success for us with ash, but the pit grow to about 60 cm deep before we hit ice. It is 50 cm wide and 4 meters long. Adam has worked in construction; he is a good and digger. The till is light colored and it is all piled in a huge mound next to the long side of the "L." I bet we will be able to see it tomorrow like a beacon from camp.
While Adam and I worked on the "L," Dave Marchant has been excavating a smaller, but more fruitful pit right next to the top of the "L." As I mentioned before, Marchant is known for using ash to date events in these valleys. He is a remarkable finder as well.
He finds some of the black, while we have found none, just centimeters from our pit.
I go around to look at it and return to my hole. Excavating carefully, I find it! My first ash, my first black ash. It must be a continuation of what Dave is working on.
When one finds ash all digging stops and the ash is collected. And all of it must be collected. All of it. None shall remain for any others to see.
The ash is shoveled into a plastic sample bag with a trowel or spoon. If possible it is graded as it is collected. If it is very pure, with not sediments, then it can go in a "concentrate" bag. If it is less concentrated, then it goes in the disseminated bag, or "dissemo."
Early in the afternoon, we watch the Kiwi helo come into the 053 camp. The members of that camp are standing outside, near where the helo will land. This is in stark contrast to our camp. We all go hide behind a rock when the helos come in. Here is why:
A man who was employed by Denton named Twitty (well really Howard) Conway, once suggested to him that he should crouch behind a rock when the helo they had just left flew off. The helicopter did not take off as usual. It tipped over, clipped the rotor and then the aircraft disintegrated into shrapnel and tore apart their gear. They remained alive because of Twitty's advice. (I later met Twitty at the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand). I believe that Denton has been in at least 15 crashes, some much closer calls than others.
Well anyway, when the Kiwi's fly in to 053's camp, they are all standing outside. Since we have heard several of the close call stories, we are all shaking our heads. They have one Scott tent, several mountain tents and a very large Polar Haven tent. We know that they will be having a large number of people in camp, so they must be planning on using the Polar Haven as the cook tent. As the helo lands, we see maps, fabric arcticles and all sorts of things fly out of the polar haven. They don't seem to notice at first. Although it looks comical, I understand - I know that some of them as are much amateur as I.
Later at another pit, the ice is not the solid, continuous ice that I have seen before. This ice is in a very sculptural shape, it reminds me af a Henry Moore sculpture. The ice has orange debris bands of the eolian sands and then a band of debris composed of gray pebbles. Is this coming out of the ice? Marchant photographs chunks of the ice. I hold it for him up high against the sky for the best shot.
We walk towards camp, and notice that the three members in camp at 053 are waiting for us. They are over closer to the west side of the valley, but they will be able to intercept us.
They will ask me about the ash. Dave and Adam decide to make a run for it in the troughs. They both have on heavy packs, they crouch down low in the troughs so that they won't be seen (?). Adam's last words to me are"If you are captured, give your name and serial number only." I laugh, but I am laughing at the ridiculousness of their soldier game. I think that I would not mind being captured and going over to the enemy. They look like football players running through tires as they escape the crafty hands of G053.
After Adam and Dave leave, I continue to mosey on back towards camp. I am indeed intercepted by Ron Sletten and Jaako Petronen from the University of Washington and Mike Mellon from the University of Colorado at Boulder. This is the advance team for 053. Sletten studies soils in the Arctic and now in the Antarctic. Jaako is Bernard Hallet's postdoc - he will be setting up their meteorological station. Washington will be able to monitor changes in Beacon via satellite all year. I like knowing that I will still be able to know what's going on in Beacon in July. Mellon models the polygons on Mars.
They will be leaving tomorrow for lower Beacon, near the Taylor Glacier. We talk about how it is going. Ron says "Beacon's tough." I say "It's tough, but not as tough as I am There is no cryin in Beacon Valley." He then pulls out a package for us. It's our GPS. And our mail!! They invite me over for coffee anytime and I thank them for our mail .
Back at camp there is much discussion about what transpired between the two camps today. The only mail was for Adam though, all the rest of us are a little down about this.
We have Spags and Rags for dinner.
Goodnight from Beacon Valley.
Niles North High School
Skokie, IL 60077
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