9 October, 1998
What a night we has last night. A blizzard struck with heavy winds. I am glad I did not have to get out in it. The weather today has been very cold and windy. Temperatures got down to about -35F and winds were gusting up to 30mph. I bundled up well today.
This morning I had to attend helicopter safety school because we are going to be going out to a remote site to gather fish for our study. That only lasted about an hour but it again hit home with the importance of safety here in Antarctica and how important it is to follow the rules. There have been fatalities here from helicopter flights but not as many as there could have been. Safety here is nothing to make light of.
After that school I had to attend sea ice school. After a morning learning how to pitch a tent on the ice, radio protocol, and types of sea ice cracks we loaded up into a Hagland, a two piece vehichle for traversing ice, we headed out to study real ice cracks.
The weather was terrible. The wind was blowing hard and the skies were overcast so it made travel on the ice very difficult. In these conditions dips and bumps in the ice cannot be seen so it made the ride very bumpy. The first place we went was to Cape Armitage where we drilled holes in the ice with a small hand held borer that drilled a hole about two inches or about 10 cm in diameter. The ice was about 1.7 meters thick or about 5 and a half feet thick. The vehicle we were in can traverse ice that is 30 inches or 76 cm thick. The Hagland also is supposed to float if the ice breaks through.
We then drove to the Erebus glacier area. We climbed around the face of the Erebus Glacier and crawled into an ice cave. The face of the glacier was only about 30 feet tall. That is because only 10 percent of it is above the water line. The glacier meets the sea ice and is actually floating on the water. Later on in the summer I am told that all of the sea ice will melt and the glacier can be seen floating. There is evidence of ice calving off of the glacier in the form of small icebergs that were frozen in place by the sea ice. As the sea ice melts the glaciers will float out to sea.
We went to a couple of other places where we drilled holes and measured the thickness of the sea ice. One place was a bit on the scary side. We were digging down through the snow to get through to the ice to drill a hole and found that the ice was very thin and slushy. The vehicle was parked back on thicker ice but had it been where we were drilling it woul have broken through. I did not like walking on it once I saw how thin it was. I was very glad to depart the area.
It was a very exciting day. It is very difficult to describe the appearance of the areas we visited. Words just do not do it justice. Everything is snow and ice covered but only with a thin layer of snow. The winds blow all of it away. I think the best words are a savage beauty.
I cannot imagine how Robert Scott and his 4 companions in 1912 dragged 400 pounds of gear across this terrain clear to the South Pole. Unfortunately none of them survived the return trip. The land is savage and brutal yet beautiful and mysterious. When I leave there will be a part of me left behind. This is truly the last frontier that even today with all of our modern equipment is not going to be beaten by man.
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