16 November, 1999
Got up at 0500 hours, changed and left for the Crary lab. Per his request, I did wake my roommate before I left.
I had lots of email from Darcy and the kids, so it was good start to the day. I can't imagine what I did the last time I was here when I could only email once a week. More interesting yet is. What did the old time explorers such as Scott,
Amundsen, Shakelton, Byrd and the score of others who put their live on the line do exploring this most hostile of continents, think as they left their families. Often times knowing, in many cases that if all went well, they would not see them for at least two or more years.
Barb showed up around 0800 and we started to debrief from last night's workshop. Our biggest problem will be trying to meet with all these people who have to come late or have to leave early. We will give it our best shot.
We worked until 1230 hours then Barb went to lunch. I stayed back to work on journals. We have 1500 hour meeting with the woman in charge of the computer training room. We showed up on time and had to wait about 25 minutes. I really don't think this lady wants to relinquish her room, and I can understand that to a point. But, we need the room and we are grantees; therefore we should have access. This had been arranged for us by Robbie Score, but for this week and the next only, not for this week and the next two weeks as our SIP called for. Oh well just one more little fly in the ointment.
We were told what we could touch and what we could not. We were told how many people we could put at what tables; were told when we could pick up the keys, and when we could not; and we were told how to leave the room when done and where to leave the keys. I personally think that was a little over kill; but when in Rome. In any case we have at least limited access to the computers and that is what is most important.
While we were waiting for our meeting with the computer lady we found a sign up list for a trip to Cape Evans. There were 36 people signed up and Barb and I were the 9th and 10th alternates. We didn't know what our chances were of going but, most other evening we are working and later when our program is done, the sea ice will be closed to travel. In fact, rumors are going around town that the sea ice runway will be closed by 12/10/99. When this happens all flights will be out of William's field or Pegasus field
Barb and I showed up at the pick up pint with our ECW and there was room. We took two "Delta", these are wheeled vehicle that have a separate cab and body. The things are monsters; five people can fit across the front seat. The back held 16. The wheels on these things are about 4 1/2' high and probably 2 1/2' wide. The trip was to travel to the sea ice and take the flagged route out to Cape Evans, I think its about a distance of about 25 miles. I asked our drive, a gal from Austin Texas named Olivia how much gas it would take she said round trip took about 30 gallons. Roughly 2 miles per gallon. Where is Ralph Nader when you need him?
The scenery on the way out was breathtaking and the ride was very rough, but fun. Like everything in life there is always a trade off. We drove for about 40 minutes and the Delta stopped. Oliva opened the back door and said that if anyone would like to get out there was a Weddell seal and a youngster lying off to our left. We got out of the Delta and I lost my breath from the wind and the beauty.
As I faced the Delta on my far right was Mt. Erebus with what appeared to be "little" puffs of smoke coming out. I say "little" for the mountain is a long way off and 3,794-meters high. (How many feet?) In front of the Delta were Razor Back and Little Razorback. (Can anyone get the map locations for these two "mountains"?) Off to my left were two islands, Inaccessible Island and another I do not know the name of. Between us and Inaccessible Island was a huge Weddell Seal sunning herself. We got within roughly 20 feet of her when we were told to go no further. Don't forget there is an international treaty governing to handling or even disturbing on any and all Antarctic flora and fauna.
We stayed there a good 1/2-hour before people started feeling the cold an headed back to the Delta. What an awe-inspiring experience, it just doesn't get much better then this. Another 20 or so minutes of riding (bouncing)in the Delta, she started to make a large circle. The windows were all frosted, most of us had given up trying to clear the frost away. Actually by now my eyeglasses had to be scraped as well. One reason for this was we could not open the port in the roof to change the moisture-laden air so it just froze everywhere.
We had arrived at the Hut at Cape Evans, Ross Island built in January of 1911 by caption Robert Falcon Scott As I exited the Delta the hut was directly in front, maybe 1/4 mile up from the ice edge. Immediately to the right of that, on a high volcanic ash strewn knoll was a memorial cross. This was the Cross on Wind Vane Hill it was erected by the Ross Sea Party of the Ernest Shackleton Trans-Antarctic Expedition 0f 1914-1916. Shackleton was one of the explorers of the heroic ere. He is the English man whose ship, the Endurance was trapped and eventually crushed by pressure ice deep in the Weddell Sea. The plan was the cross Antarctic by foot starting at the edge of the Weddell Sea crossing the South Pole and ending up here at Cape Evans. The crew that landed here was to have lain numerous cashes for supplies for Shackleton and his team to use on the last half of their journey across the continent. Unbeknown to the crew at Cape Evans , Shackleton and his crew, though they miraculously all survived, had to literally walk and row out of the Weddell Sea ice and across part of the Drake's Passage (the world's roughest water) and finally got rescued about what I believe was almost two years time. This cross on Wind Vane Hill had been erected tin memory of three of the party who died in that area.
To the left was Mt. Erebus and still further to the left was the great ice barrier. Hundreds of feet of blue ice, marking the point where the glacier met the sea. It is this barrier wall of ice that often times breaks off and gives rise to tabular icebergs.
We were allowed to climb to the hut and up to Wind Vane Hill. The beauty was spectacular, but as I was walking around the hut looking at cases of supplies, many with still readable labels, because If the cold and dryness. I felt like I was invading the private lives of the men who lived, and those who died here. It was sort of surreal. I don't know how to explain it. It was as if we should not be allowed to intrude into their privacy. As we traversed from the hut to the hill wooden boxes of supplies were stacked, still somewhat neatly. About 1/4 of the way up the hill there is the remains of a sledge dog. The skeleton is in tack as is most of the skull. Fur and all. This is amazing when you realize this has been sitting exposed to the elements for 80 or so years.
We walked around the camp for a couple of hours. Many of us went off into the volcanic ash fields. Here we saw skuas, the Antarctic counterpart to the seagull. As we walked among the volcanic ash and stones, some 4' high, we found the remains of seal and penguins. I actually found a penguin skull that to me looked like that of a rockhopper, but I do not think they are found that far south.
We stayed here for a good two hours and finally headed back to McTown having had yet another experience of a lifetime. Wow!
Got back to town just in time for midrats and at dinner with a chap from Iceland. We chatted about a number of thing from the fact that a former student of mine lives in Iceland to the fact that a can of American beer costs $10.oo US there. I am glad I don't drink. As I was about to leave one of the Kiwis that I had gone to survival camp with spotted me. "Hey Peter, how ya doin mate?" It was Paul Sutherland, AKA Sulley. He wanted me to go back with him to the Kiwi dorm for a few beers. I don't drink but wen t with him. All the "mates" seemed happy to see me and I stayed about an hour. They were a rowdy bunch, but then again when I was that age I was a bit rowdy myself.
Off to be.
Sleep well and peace. I'm sure I'll dream of the likes of Shackleton and his men, literally all alone in the absolute middle of no where.
Penguin Pete the Man
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