November 30, 2004
I’m still sick. I don’t have any pictures of me being sick. I don’t even have any pictures of Thanksgiving.
But I do have pictures of some of the field excursions that I’ve gone on in the past month that I’ve not yet posted.
Global warming is a hot topic, so to speak, and one way to learn about the Earth’s changes in climate is to drill a core of ice from a glacier and study the chemical changes in the ice over time. That is to say, the glacier ice offers a record of chemicals in the atmosphere, with the oldest ice at the bottom and the youngest ice at the top. Dr. Karl Kreutz’ group is drilling and analyzing ice cores from two glaciers in the Dry Valleys to better understand recent (past 2,000 years) climate patterns in that region. The group also installed a small network of mass balance stakes around the drill site to understand the ice velocity around the core. Their mass balance stakes consist of nothing more than three-meter-long metal rods drilled into the ice. My job was to measure the position of each pole so that we can measure them again next year and learn how fast they move.
Jim wasn’t able to come out, so I was accompanied by someone from town. Anne Benninger, a carpenter by trade but the South Pole cargo coordinator down here, was chosen by the powers that be to help me out. We were scheduled to be out for one night.
We spent a good part of that night exploring.
Neither Anne nor I had been to that area before, so we went for a walk.
The next day, Anne and Karl and I installed a survey marker in some nearby bedrock.
Then, I measured the network.
Shortly before the survey was finished, we learned that helicopters for the rest of the day had been cancelled and Anne and I would be "stuck" out there another night. Neither of us minded, especially since, while the weather had gone bad in McMurdo, the weather on Clark glacier was still quite nice. Plus, it gave me time to learn about ice core drilling. This was great, as I’ve read a decent amount about ice cores and one of my housemates this summer drills (and studies) ice cores, but I didn’t know anything about the actual drilling process.
As drilling wound down, we enjoyed the sunshine.
Lobster took a ride on Terry's kite.
And, eventually, we settled down to a nice dinner (Mike and Terry are both fantastic cooks) with some beverage treats I brought in on their request.
We did make it out the next day, in the morning, and left the four Clark glacier dudes behind. I wasn't *too* sad, though, since I knew I'd get to meet up with them out in the field again, next time at Commonwealth glacier. Stories to follow.
November 27, 2004
Happy Thanksgiving! Belated. Belated for folks up north, but not belated for us. We here in McMurdo have Thanksgiving dinner the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and have that Saturday off, so it's a two-day weekend. I should be writing the entry entitled "Thanksgiving" tonight or tomorrow, I suppose, after our actual meal, but maybe I'll have a "Thanksgiving Part II."
Part one is about the current state of affairs.
I went out in the field to the Dry Valleys Monday, moved to a different project and different camp on Wednesday, and was supposed to move to the camp at Lake Hoare for their Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, but cam home sick instead. Thanksgiving at Lake Hoare is quite a to-do for the folks working in the Dry Valleys, specifically in Taylor Valley, because everyone working up and down the valley hike to the camp at Lake Hoare to congregate for the big meal. I don't know how long this has been going on, but long enough for it to be a tradition. I believe there's a (posed) shot of it on one of the specials on Antarctica. So I was pretty excited about getting to partake. However, when I awoke on Thursday morning, I thought two things: 1) I don't want to give anyone else out doing field work what I have, because I now feel like crap; and 2) I want nothing more than to be at home in my room in McMurdo. So I was very happy when, after a weather delay, the skank (fog) cleared enough for pilot Barry to come on in in an A-Star (the sports car helicopter) and pick me up. Hooray, Barry. Hooray, weather. Hooray, room with warm cozy fleece throw and couch and my two roommates.
But that's all about being sick.
I spent all of Thursday night and all of Friday (yesterday) staying home sick, napping and watching movies ("Greece" and "Dogma"), and today I'm still sick, but I've moved on to a new stage. I've moved on from plugged stage to faucet stage. I think my nose will be rubbed raw before the end of the day.
Still, I will be social. At least a bit. We (friends and friends of friends etc.) are signed up for dinner at 7 (the dining hall capacity is, I think, 350, and we eat in three shifts) and we (roommates) are having folks over to make hand turkeys and have drinks beforehand. We straightened our room and everything.
Hope you all have had lovely Thanksgivings with friends and family.
November 21, 2004
What an amazingly fantastic day we had yesterday, cruising out to Big Razorback island on skidoos in beautiful, warm weather to survey several seal colonies with Kelly of Montana State University.
The day consisted of following Kelly to groups of seals around Inaccessible, Tent, and Big Razorback islands and measuring the approximate location of each animal.
Kelly checks the tags on the tail flippers of each seal, and we record the seal number while logging the location data. The oldest seal we saw was tagged in the '80s.
The seals definately noticed our presence, but not many did anything about it--even the mothers with pups. Some bleated at us,
some rolled away a roll or two, some scooted away about 20 ft across the ice, leaving a trail of urine. Most, though, just looked at us.
We learned a lot about seals from Kelly, which was great. Right now, the males are defending terratory and mating underwater, and sleeping hard to rest up on the ice. The females are caring for pups they birthed a couple weeks ago, mating, and resting up on the ice as well. We even heard a seal snoring. They can be out pretty hard. In fact, Kelly said they sleep for days--in the same place. As they lie on the snow, they melt out the snow and ice under them.
The pups are nursing and growing, and most have started molting their baby fur to be replaced by darker, shorter fur.
In general, the males were fat and the females were not as fat, as they are nursing but not eating right now. There are, however, some exceptions.
This mom-pup pair was so fat we all had to laugh at them. They were still cute, so we figured it was okay.
The scenery should also be mentioned. We were walking part of the time around pressure ridges, or gnarly little ridges where the sea ice has been compressed and broken apart and shoved together. The seals found some melt pools to play around in amongst the pressure ridges.
But really, it was mostly about the seals.
November 15, 2004
The weather is absolutely beautiful. Not only did everyone fair the storm fine on Saturday, including the folks out at Cape Royds (the search and rescue team went out in a tracked vehicle called a Hagglund to bring them on in, although they didn't seems to be too distraught at being stuck out there at all), but the storm was quite short-lived. I thought it was going to build up to a good one, but Saturday night and Sunday were pretty calm and also pretty warm--just cloudy.
I was just down at the helo hanger to drop off some equipment that my friend Erin requested out at Taylor glacier. Says Phil, one of the helo techs, "Where is this stuff going?" "To Taylor glacier," I say. "Erin Pettit's group." "Where are you going?" asks Phil. "Um, back to Crary," I say. "I'll be going out to Taylor with a piece of equipment next week, or the end of this week." "Is that all you do anymore?" he asks. "Go out with pieces of equipment? What about boys?" "Mmmm," I say, "I decided that the equipment, even though it can be fussy, is easier to troubleshoot when things go wrong. And when the troubleshooting doesn't work, I just send it back." "And get a new one," he says. "Yes," I say, "and get a new one."
November 13, 2004
It has suddenly gotten very, very windy! The weather was extraordinarily warm and calm last night and this morning, not even warrenting gloves. I was amazed by it yesterday. This morning passed uneventfully, Jim and I went to lunch, and then it started to blow. And BLOW. I can hear the wind barrelling into the side of our building, and the flag on the flagpole down at the helo hanger is going crazy. When it's visible. Snow is blowing white everywhere, except for up--up high, I can still still hazy patches of blue sky. I.T. Matt says this is supposedly just the beginning of it. Awesome! Except for a group that headed off to Cape Royds (where the penguins are) on skidoos. That'd be a tough journey back. Hopefully they noticed the weather coming in and decided to turn around. Otherwise, this storm will be a lot more exciting for them than for the rest of us.
I did finally make it out into the field, returning yesterday from a two-night trip in the Dry Valleys. It was beautiful and enlightening and I look forward to sharing pictures, but I just couldn't resist putting a word in now about the wind. It's powerful, and I can feel my adrenalin kicking in a bit even though I'm not out in it. It's just so big. Big, big wind. Look at me! it shouts. LOOK AT ME!
November 9, 2004
Still on Hold
Tonight marks our third attempt to get out to the Barne glacier and Three Sisters, on Erebus, for some surveying. This time, we made it all the way down to the helo hanger in our ECW. It's a lovely night out, but windy. Hmmm. Wind not so good for what we need to do.
On a brighter note, we're scheduled tomorrow for an overnight to Clark glacier, a glacier in one of the Dry Valleys, to do some surveying with a group of glaciologists drilling an ice core. Should be fun.
And, Jim and I went down to the aquarium today (where the fish-studying groups store their catches in tanks) to say hello to the Antarctic cod.
Posted by beth at 6:36 AM
November 6, 2004
Since there's no field story to tell today, I'll tell another story.
I have been getting great and consistent comments for the last year or so from the guys at Lucky 13, Firestation 13 in Albany, Oregon--particularly from firefighter/paramedic Rob. He made the mistake of saying that they'd always have a pot of chili on, and that I should stop by any time I was in the area. Well, it so happened that I was doing field work in Oregon in August and early September, and that Albany is just south of Portland, where I was going to return my rental car. So, I decided to try pay the station a visit.
Simple. Except that, of course, I was running behind schedule--no fixed schedule, just running later than I wanted to be since I wanted to meet up with some friends in Portland at a reasonable hour--and I had no idea of where the firehouse was. I had e-mailed Rob the day before, saying nothing more than that I might be through that way. I didn't have a chance to check e-mail to see if he'd written back.
I hadn't eaten since the morning. It was past 4 o'clock. I grabbed some...um..fast food...and ate it mercilessly in the parking lot of a K-mart, where I called my friend Rachel up in Portland. I was loopy. Hi Rachel! I haven't eaten since this morning! (This is pretty significant--I'm a big eater.) Hi! How are you! I'm going to try to visit a firehouse! Have I told you about this? Um! So! Yeah! ...I don't know how to get there!
She suggested I try the phonebook. Rachel is smart.
So I went into the K-mart--a SuperK, probably--and asked to see their phonebook. I couldn't find phone numbers for the individual fire stations, so I wrote down all the numbers that looked like they might be able to get me somewhere close. But when I tried calling the numbers from my cell phone in the car, after hours, the first was just a recording from City Hall or somewhere saying it was after hours and the second was just a recording giving burn info. As in, whether and where fires were allowed in residential areas.
The third and last, luckily, got me a person. I don't actually know who he was or what he did or what the purpose was of the number I called, but the guy on the other end was able to tell me how to get to Lucky Station 13. And it turned out that I was already pretty close.
It only took me two tries to get there. (The first took me back onto the highway heading south, away from Portland, the way I'd come.) It was raining. Did I mention it was raining? A mostly light, northwestern rain. When I arrived, after hours, the front door was locked. But firehouses are always staffed. And one of the firefighters heard me tapping, so he came and amiably opened the door. "You must be here to see Bob," he said. "Come on in."
I hadn't even thought about the number of circumstances that had to be right in order to randomly meet up with Rob. I knew that I had to get there early enough that I had time to stop through on my way to Portland, and I knew that I had to find the place. I somehow hadn't completely thought through the part about how Rob would actually have to be there. The part about how firefighters are on a few days and then off a few days, and about how firefighters actually go out on calls and save people. Maybe because those parts of the equation were out of my control.
As it happened, I was in luck. At Lucky 13. Rob greeted me in the hallway with a big, friendly hug. And then proceeded to give me an energetic tour of the firehouse. And introduced me to the rest of the crew. The best part was getting to sit in his workplace--the back of the medic truck, where he responds as a firefighter/paramedic.
The next best part was the end of the tour, when I got to eat. There was no chili in the firehouse that day, but there was a pot of elk stew, made with elk hunted by one of the other firefighters. So over butter bread and stew Rob told me about his lovely fiance, Lisa, and their plan to potentially come on down to the Ice after an early retirement. Kudos to Rob for finding someone with an equally adventurous spirit.
I know the words I'm using are cheesy, but it was really, really neat to get to meet Rob. He is energetic, interested, enthusistic, and postitive, AND, hopefully I'll be able to see him and his fiance Lisa down here working in a season or two! How crazy.
Our helo trip to the Barne glacier and to Three Sisters, on Erebus, was cancelled for the day, along with most all other helo trips for today. We're finally having McMurdo weather--which means it's a bit skanky out. Not horrible, by any means, and not even stormy--just overcast and flat. Chillier than it has been. We had great weather for most of the first two and a half weeks we were here, so I guess it's time for us to be tested a bit.
Speaking of testing. The IT guys next door constantly test my everything--patience, fear, sense of smell. Here's a picture of Matt and me in the office. This is what I'm subjected to down here. It's a harsh continent.
November 2, 2004
Second Trip to Erebus
Jim and I had another beautiful trip to Erebus on Monday, and got a bit used to the cameras. Unfortunately, we were only able to accomplish 50% of what we set out to do, but it was a nice evening just the same. Jim took all the pictures that I am in; I took the rest unless noted.
Posted by beth at 1:21 AM
November 1, 2004
Halloween! Halloween in McMurdo is a pretty major holiday. It's the first big party once pretty much everyone is on station; legend has it, if you don't hook up by Halloween you're not gonna. This isn't true, though.
I was trying to think of a good group costume for the Halloween party since group costumes are fun. Shortly before arriving--in Christchurch maybe, even--I got the idea of having a group dress up like the characters from the game Clue. Turns out somebody else had that very same idea. Graciously, they offered me to join their group.
I was assigned to be Mrs. Peacock. I was told that Gear Issue (a service run by the recreation department) had a sparkly, sequin-y dress which would be perfect for Mrs. Peacock. "It looked kinda small," people told me, "but it might fit you."
The dress appeared in my room the night before the party. Looks kinda small, I thought, but it might work. I tried it on the next day at lunch. Woah nelly. It fit--so long as I didn't sit down, crouch down, bend over to pick anything up, or put my arms over my head. Luckily, the dress was backless, otherwise there would have been no chance. "It looks good," said my roommate, Julie. "It makes you look slim." Yeah, of course it did--because it was compressing every inch of my body.
Still, I wore it. I put it on after everyone else was ready and it was time to head down to the gym.
"I don't think I'll last more than half an hour in this thing," I told my friends. Tad had an idea. "I know a way for you to get out of that dress," he said. "You can die."
For the costume contest, each group gets up on stage, and maybe does a little something memorable, like dance to a pre-planned song. We gathered on stage, standing proudly, and when we were settled my roommante Elizabeth killed some of the lights, the Clue group gathered around me, and I let out a bloodcurdling scream (at least I like to think that it was) while my group lowered me to the ground ("I'm not kidding about the lowering thing, guys," I said to my group--"I'm not going to make it down there on my own."). They opened back up and the lights came back on to reveal each person standing with their weapon, and me lying motionless on my back.
But we didn't win. The pimps and hos did. That's okay, because my roommate Julie was one of them, and I support her.
Unfortunately, I don't have any other pictures of my posse from Halloween. I'll try to get my hands on some and post any good ones. The short of it is, I changed almost immediately into a different dress and danced the night away. Slept in on Sunday and felt great.