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January 4, 2003

Rabbit Hole Cave

Woke up. Into the hut about 8:30. The weather looked promising. Do we get to go see the pengies?? Skank moving in. McMurdo socked in. Helos on hold. It was a typical story.

I worked on data processing all morning. The weather deteriorated. But, it was still workable. Before lunch, Bill and Rich E. made a trip around to the back side of the volcano to finish up some errands. After lunch, Nelia, Bill, Rich E., and I headed up to the crater rim to work on the camera site and take out the GPS equipment. Nelia and I carried the equipment down and picked up crystals along the way. The snow makes crystal hunting a bit more challenging than usual, but our path—not commonly used—was prime crystal-plucking territory. I came down with a heavy pocket.

As Nelia and I descended, a helo appeared from the west side of the mountain and descended towards the hut. They finally decided to give it a try. The helo lifted off again before we made it back home. Here breaks our six-day stretch with no helos. As expected, RK was gone when we arrived back at the hut. After three days of waiting, he’d made it down to McMurdo.

After a dinner of homemade pizza (compliments of Sarah), we headed back into the wilds of the volcano’s slopes. All of us, including Sarah, made the trek to visit Hidden Valley, one of the mountain’s treasures. Mission: Survey ice towers. First, we measured CO2 output from some cracks in snow-free, thermal ground. The ground was warm to the touch. Then, on to some ice towers downslope.

Bill probed his way up to the entrance of the first one. “It’s a walk-in!” he called. He entered. I imagined a gently-sloping floor leading down into the cave, or a shallow cave where we might have to crouch to get in.

I was wrong. We entered a rabbit hole.

Just inside the entrance, we were greeted by a snow slide arcing down towards darkness. Bill was already down, and Rich was on his way down in front of me.

He quickly disappeared. Nelia entered behind me, and we started the scoot down. Can you see? she asked. I could see just enough to know that there was a rock floor below me, but not enough to see Bill and Rich. "Hey, where are you guys?" I asked. "Woo-woo!" came from the darkness, and I had to grin. "I LOVE this game!" I made it to the base of the slide. I could just make out Rich, but no Bill. "Where’s Bill?" I asked. "Come over here," Rich said. He motioned me over to the wall, and instructed me to look down into its base. I knelt, my head several inches from the floor. I waited for my eyes to adjust, but they wouldn’t. I extended an arm. It was a passage. "Bill saw a stripe of light, and headed for it," Rich said. I squinted to see the stripe of light, and could almost imagine it. Nelia arrived and asked for Bill. "Do you want me to call for him?" I asked. "Sure." I call. "Bill!" No answer. "Bill!" Still no anwer. Nelia tried. "Bill!" Nothing. A moment later, we tried again. "Bill!" "Yeah?" His voice came from back a ways. "Where are you?" "I’m coming back." "Good!"

He emerged happy. "It opens up to a well-lit room back there," he said, "but the passage gets pretty narrow. I probably could have squeezed through, but I wouldn’t have been able to breath while squeezing."

They allowed me to name the cave, since it was my first season down. Rabbit Hole cave.

[Nelia sits in the entrance.]


[The walls even appear to be lined with rabbit fur.]

[Rich descends the slide.]

[Looking up.]

[Getting even deeper into it.]

[View up the rabbit hole.]

[Rabbit fur.]

We surveyed a couple more ice towers on our way home. Each one was from a fairy tale. There was big-mouth tower, and then one that looked like a grand owl, and then one that looked to me like a monster snout thrust up out of the ground.

[Monster tower. To me, it looks like a snout pointed up in the air, mouth open. The picture doesn't show it all that well, but you may just be able to make out a nostril on the upper left side of the tower.]

After surveying, we split up. I went with Rich to Cones to replace the stinky seismic instrument, and Bill and Nelia headed back. Rich and I drove fast. It’s a wonderful place to look around, enjoy the view and try to understand that we’re in Antarctica. But... we drove fast. And that’s fun, too.

Posted by beth at January 4, 2003 8:23 PM