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6 January, 2003

Return to Springtime

Date: 01/06/02

Latitude: 77° 51’ S

Longitude: 166° 40’ E

Time of weather observation: 5:00 pm

Temperature: +2 C / +36F

Wind speed: 5 knots

Wind Chill: -01 C / +31 F

Wind Direction: Northwesterly

Meters of ice collected: 920

Log by Dan Dixon and Betsy Youngman

Who would have thought that we would ever have called the weather in Antarctica warm? However, that was the first word that came to mind as Markus, Andrea, Gordon and Betsy stepped off the plane from the South Pole and on to the runway here at McMurdo Station yesterday afternoon. The air felt so warm and mild, the snow was damp underfoot and one didn’t even need a hat or gloves for the first time in two months. It is a marvelous feeling to have shed a few layers of clothing. Summer has arrived here on the coast of Antarctica, what a change it is from the conditions at the South Pole! I even have seen little rivulets of water running off the hillsides and down the streets. There is a smell of summer mud in the air.

The conditions at the South Pole were severe in comparison, although relatively mild compared to the norm. The coldest temperature we experienced during our brief stay there was about -28 C and the winds never rose much above 10 knots.

Dan, Susan, Paul, Mark, Carl and Lynn are still at Pole. They were treated to a tour of the new Pole Station. The new South Pole Station is still under construction; there are multitudes of temporary housing huts erected nearby to house all the workers involved. There are also hundreds and hundreds of meters of cargo and building materials staged around the construction site, the whole area seems like an industrial business area. During the tour we were informed that by the time the new station was finished the whole area would be cleared leaving only the Dome, the Arches, and the new station (along with the existing science buildings). It wasn’t until we actually walked around inside the new station that we really grasped its sheer size, it really is enormous. There are still several parts of the building yet to be added, by the time it is finished it will be almost double its present size. Only a small part of the building was finished and furnished, the rest was composed of huge metal girders, bare steel pipework, and kilometers of wiring. It was quite a spectacle to see the workers inside milling around like ants, trying to complete their construction deadlines. Part of the new station is due to have winter-over staff staying in it at the end of this summer season. The huge building on the surface is only a part of the construction effort. Underground, there are several huge arches housing all the essential facilities. One of the most important new buildings is the new fuel arch, this has to be large as fuel is arguably the most valuable resource on station. A new power plant with several giant V12 CAT engine generators roars away producing all the power needs for the station, the room itself looks as if it is composed entirely of shiny steel pipes of all shapes and sizes. There is a brand new heavy shop for fixing the heavy equipment and machinery around the base (and believe me, there is a lot of it). The old heavy shop has been turned into a gym and storage area. There are new water supplies and sewage disposal facilities. One of the most unusual things we were shown was the network of underground tunnels. These tunnels are carved out of the snow and are the utility conduits for essential pipework and wiring, it was very eerie standing in there surrounded by cold white walls and looking at the pipes and wires disappearing off into the distance.

All in all, our stay at the South Pole has been a most enjoyable one. We were provided with all the facilities we could possibly need; showers, washing, tools, and as much hot food as we could eat. It was a perfect welcome for weary travelers. The staff and workers at Pole were constantly helpful and always had a friendly smile; we look forward to returning there again someday.

Each section of the ITASE team is putting the finishing touches on their field season. For Markus and Betsy that means melting our snow samples in order to analyze them for the same trace chemicals that we were detecting in the atmosphere during the traverse. We have set the detectors up in the warm and spacious Carry lab. The snow samples were collected at each site, using a custom-made snow-sampling device. This small metal coring instrument allows us to collect samples every two centimeters as we push it into the snow. At each of the five sites that we visited in the last two months we collected samples to a depth of between thirty and fifty centimeters. Sampling to this depth, usually the amount of snow that would collect in one to three years time, allows understand the photochemical processes that snow undergoes before it is buried and compacted becoming part of the ice sheet. Once collected, the snow samples are carefully stored in sealed glass bottles and transported and stored frozen. Right now, we have several hundred of these small bottles stored in a freezer across the hall from our chemical lab. Ironically, the freezer temperature is -25 C, just the temperature that it was at South Pole when we left! If I miss the intensity of the cold I know where to go find it.

Once the snow samples have been melted and analyzed we will begin to pack and organize ourselves for the journey homeward. It is great to be in the final phase of this adventure. Each of us is looking forward to a chance to relax and to see loved ones at home and to defrost a bit from the cold.

A view of Amundson - Scott South Pole Station from the roof hatch of the Blue Room.

Andrea, Betsy and Susan share a laugh.

Betsy and friend at the Ceremonial South Pole.

Betsy sits in the navigator's seat on the return flight from Pole to McMurdo.

Betsy working on snow sampling.

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