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February 25, 2004

On My Way

I'm going to Australia! Oh, did I fail to mention that I'm off the ice? Yep, I've been a little behind on keeping up, both with the blog and with my personal journal. It would seem like life just dropped off the last week or so in Antarctica, but of course it sped up. I finally got out of my yellow box nightmare, but only after extending my departure date from the 9th to the 11th, and then getting (luckily) delayed until the 12th. Apparently, ship onload (garbage from the past year to replace the new supplies for the coming year) had not finished and they ("they") wanted to keep people who were scheduled out on our flight around to wrap up.

Then, New Zealand.

Last year, I was disgusted by re-entry. This year, I was intoxicated. We exitted the plane into a warm, starry night, into smells of flowers and soil and the soft feel of petals, live petals which are nurtured and grow. After dealing with customs and organizing our stuff and waiting and finally taxi-ing to hotels, we (a collective we, a general those-of-us-on-the-plane-who went-through-the-same-routine we) went out for drinks and food--the first food, other than burger bar, that we actually got to order in over 4 months. On my way home to the YMCA, I walked through the Art Center courtyard in hopes of sighting the black cat who sometimes hangs out there. I didn't see the kitty, unfortunately, but I did curl up momentarily on a freshly-cut lawn under the sprawling canopy of a tree and inhaled the smell of grass and soil, my nose pressed against the Earth. We're a wierd bunch, us folks returning from the ice.

Since then, I've relaxed, hung out with friends and flowers and numerous kitties--including a very small and very adorable kitten who belongs to the manager of a hostel nearby--and spent a few days kayaking up on the northern coast of the South Island. Now, after a few days back in Christchurch and a wicked sunburn on my back, I'm ready for a new adventure: Australia. Last year, I had a two-hour layover in the Sydney airport on my way to Hawaii. I *so* wanted to get out there, step out into the sunny day, and explore. This time, I get to. Hooray!

Posted by beth at 12:14 PM | Comments (4)

February 10, 2004

Another Antarctic Night

There are benefits to working late. I'd rather be sleeping, or hanging out, but then I wouldn't have seen this sky. How many people saw this sky? Not many, I'm guessing. It was there for me, outside my office window, and I had to go take a picture of it. There are benefits to working late.

I have been organizing equipment for storage and for shipping north. This is it. The end of the season. I had a crazy week last week, with three trips out to the field (Erebus, Taylor glacier, Erebus) and the rest of our equipment--which was over half--coming in, and the vessel on which to send our goods coming into town which meant I absolutely had to organize the equipment as soon as possible for shipping. All-nighter on Friday, and long days before and since then. It's getting done, but of course not as quickly as I'd like. Here's a picture of the office two days ago:

and a view of the staging area just outside our office, the same night:

There are more yellow boxes around the corner to the left--about 17 more yellow boxes. I think I counted 63 boxes total. Something like that. This is the one time of the season since I've been on my own that I wish I had someone else here to help out. I deserve this, though--I've done a lot of great things these past few months, that most people down here only dream of doing. I have a rockstar job.

So, I was scheduled to leave today, but delayed to Wednesday. Too much to do. Wish me luck. Then, Wednesday, if the weather hold, I fly north. With luck, we'll arrive in time to catch a late dinner, and if not, we'll still be able to go for drinks. Christchurch! Man, what a great season. What a trip it will be to be back in Christchurch. I'm looking forward to it, though. A nice release, certainly, after so many long days at work recently. Hooray!

This one goes out to the guys at Lucky 13 in Oregon. Sorry it's taken me so long to get a post out to you guys, but thanks for the messages. You guys rock. Hope the winter's treating you well and that there aren't too many heart attacks to deal with tonight.

More to come, when I have time.

Posted by beth at 12:19 AM | Comments (8)

February 3, 2004

Not Done Yet: Erebus Revisited

It's good to visit and old home. But it also reminds me of how it's nice to live in a new one.

I went up to Erebus today, with Dr. Laurie Connell, who studies fungus, and Ken, who flies helicopters. Laurie wanted a sample of warm soil from the volcano in which to look for forms of life; I needed to try to swap out some old GPS instruments for some new, as part of the permanent GPS network up there; and Ken didn't have a choice in the matter. He just got stuck with us.

We first went to Abbott Peak, the black remnants of a volcanic cone piercing the side of the volcano down low. Abbott Peak sticks out in the middle of nowhere, which makes it cool.

But, I was trying to install some equipment and the antenna cable was too short. Lack of foresight, bad call on my part.

So we moved on to site 2: Cones. Cones is a beautiful site that I liked to visit last year, because of great views and lots of nearby ice towers. The day was clear, sunny, inviting. But windy. Windy, and cold. Really cold. I remembered what cold felt like from last year. The moisture from my breath was again freezing onto the fleece at the neck of my coat, and my hands were chilling as I worked on the equipment, the cold metal sucking the heat from me through my thin gloves. The cables were immediately stiff, and difficult to work with. Everything was difficult to work with. It was cold. I stopped twice to warm up in the helicopter, which we could feel rocking in the gusts of wind. Brrr. Cold. Get me out of this place. Cold.

[Downed helicopter by the Erebus Lower Hut, which we flew over on the way to Cones. Didn't crash; just landed and couldn't take off again, a couple decades ago.]

I finished up what I could, and we moved on. Ken dropped Laurie and I off at station E1, on the side crater rim, to search out warm ground. We found steam emmitting from the crater wall just beneath us, so I headed down to sift a sample for Laurie. She had a temperature sensor which I stuck about two inches into the soil: 55 degrees C. Positive 55 degrees C, that is. I sifted dirt without complaints, the rim blocking the wind and the ground warming my butt from below. Laurie collected crystals.

[The warm (steaming) ground from which I took Laurie's sample.]

[The hole I made with the temperature sensor immediately began letting off steam.]

Then, back to McMurdo. On the way back, though, Ken was kind enough to take us for a ride around the crater to check out the activity. The lava lake was hidden in plume, but it's a fascinating view just the same.

Posted by beth at 9:28 PM | Comments (4)