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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 February 3, 2004 9:28 PM


I see the warmth theme coming out again in this entry, Beth. Really, I suppose that if you haven't got enough sunshine to warm things up, the active volcanic cones are the places to be. Hang in there.

Posted by: billmill at February 6, 2004 1:59 AM

Hey Beth! We've been trying to contact you to invite you to our wedding (March7), but it looks like you might not be able to make it, seeing as you're in the frozen wilds of Antarctica. We'll try not to take it personally! Heehee. Anyway, take good care of yourself and come visit us next time you're in our neck of the woods. We'll feed you soup.


Posted by: Serena Newhall & Scott Goeke at February 21, 2004 11:19 AM

Hi, I take it this site is run by Beth Bartel who is a el. tech.
I could kill people like him. I am a geologist glaciologist trying to out togther a net site summarising all that is known about the plave. Absolutely no one will give me a pic so I have use ones 20-50 years old.
He has some oustanding ones taken round the beardmore and further east which show a lot of things. Is it possble to work out where they are??
Many of the ones shown are too small, is it possible to get bigger ones. PLEASE answer most people don't, sonsabitches!
(Dr) Bernie Gunn

Posted by: Dr B Gunn at February 27, 2004 2:16 PM

Sorry that i am a bit of topic here.
I am looking for technical writer who is compute savvy.
I like how you put your words together. If you are interested could you email me your rates.

Posted by: Navel at July 13, 2004 6:26 PM