7 June, 1992
Sunday, June 7, 1992:
Day Three of ICWI Recovery. Got up at 0300, could not sleep another 2 and 1/2 hour night. Wanted to work on my journal, so much has happened and I don't want to miss any part of what is turning out to be a historical happening. Naomi (my student) and I worked with Vicky removing the camp stoves. Has to be the dirtiest job in the camp. Ruined my new ASA red parka, the most beautiful and warm coat you could ever own. Trust me when I say you could go to the ends of the earth with it. Oh, that's right; that is where I am!! By now the power has been disconnected in most of the camp; therefore, since it it still well before the sun was above the horizon (1000), we worked with flashlights. Remember, the only other lights here are on the ships; which by the way, look like Christmas trees against the blue-black polar sky. The three of us made a great team. We buzzed through most of the hut; however, if you've experienced Murphy's Law at home, it seems to function n a higher order of magnitude here on the ice. Like, you get the inside fuel line free, and, the outside line is buried under 8' of snow; or if it's buried under the snow, it's buried in 12" of ice! Everything you do down here involves much for effort, due, I'm sure, to the weather conditions and the clothing. Worked till noon; it was very warm-minus 7 degrees, very atypical for this area,; meteorologists had predicted a storm. I'd love to see one but all the digging we had done for the past three days would be lost in the matter of a few hours. Fortunately, the storm skirted us.
We broke for lunch. On the way back, I met a Russian doctor whom I had tried to communicate with two days in the camp. His name was Dr. Vladimir Crunz. This time he brought a friend along (Vladimir also by name) who spoke fluent English. Vladimir II was a seismologist who had just been picked up from the Russian base at Mirny, where he has worked for the past 15 months and now is heading home. But the Federov must first get out of the ice, then to Montevideo, Uruguay, then to Rotterdam, then to St. Petersburg (another two months of traveling time). Vladimir I wanted to invite me and "my children" (the Young Scholars), as he called them, to tour the Federov. I found John Evans to make sure it was OK and then asked if I could bring the Old Scholars as well. I would tour the Russians on the Palmer after the Federov tour and the two Vladimirs would stay for mid rats (midnight rations-meal).
Enough socializing; it's back to the skidoos and out to a rapidly disappearing ICWI. We went to one of the weatherports that had serious ice problems; the entire edge of the 24' x 12' tent, with a 15" bottom flap, had the entire bottom flap buried in 8" of solid ice. This meant chipping away with hammers, picks and shovels. There were nine of us working on this tent; actually, four supervised, the others worked. The work is grueling; it's cold (temp was now a more normal -25) and it's getting dark. Gee, it's almost 1530. No matter how difficult the work is, it's important that it gets done correctly and done soon for the Russians want (have) to leave due to a hard currency job awaiting them after their return to St. Petersburg. Quite candidly, the Palmer is no real match for this heavy ice; if we try to leave the ice alone, we may be here till October when the temperature starts to warm up! So we do want to leave with the Federov. Worked until 1645 then joined John Evans, ASA Project Director, with the skidoo full of rubbish that is being retrograded on the Federov. John had the sledge loaded with lumber; the Russians wanted it to use at home. Believe me, they seem to have little to nothing. Well, John hit a ridge; the skidoo made it, but the sledge, its contents and me flipped over. No one was hurt, but, to quote Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, surprise, surprise." Another skidoo group with four people stopped. They would stay and pick up the pieces; John and I would return to the Palmer. Great when you're working with the big boss!
At 2045 hrs, I led the Young Scholars and my peers to the Akademik Federov, where Vladimir I and II greeted us with hugs and hand shakes. The AF is huge; it makes the Palmer look like a child's toy boat; although its length is only 122' longer, its volume increases proportionately. It is a monster. We were given a tour of the outer decks first. It has a work boat 1/10 the size of the Palmer; two huge life boats, hold 120 as opposed to the Palmer's 74; and numerous Zodiak type boats. The AF also has two Mill-8 helicopters; we got to sit in them; believe me, I can tell you for a fact that there is no OSHA in Russia. The copters have pop rivets everywhere; there are no seat belts that I could see; and the auxiliary gas tank, right among the passengers, looked as if it was repaired with "bondo."
Once inside, we were treated to a tour of the meteorology, atmospheric, ice and hydrology lab. In each lab, Vladimir II asked his peers to explain what they did and he interpreted; I guess 40% spoke fluent English. One of the people we met was the famous Dr. Egor Melankoff, biologist and ice diver. I've referred to Egor on several other occasions. Egor was extremely proud of his work and explained it all in detail. He was parcticularly impressed with the Young Scholars and wanted to know how they got here. He had extra kind words for the teachers; said he lacked the special "characters" (as he called it) to be a teacher; one in parcticular was "patience." He then proceeded to present a mini lesson. When he finished, the place was in awe. I told him that he would make an outstanding teacher for he believed in what he was doing and that he truly cared for his "students." He laughed; but I meant exactly what I had said to him. At this point we were split into two groups so that we could go to see their cabins. The good doctor insisted that I go with him as well as three other people. Dr. Vladimir (I) showed us his cabin. It's bigger than the Palmer's; but no VCR. Dr. Vladimir is Polar Trauma Orthopedic Surgeon. He, like Vladmir II, was being rotated out of this base. He had been doctor at Vostock, the Russian base in the eastern Antarctic, noted for its average low temperature (about -60 and the record of -1126.8 degrees). Nice place to visit; but I wouldn't want to spend a year there. He was also an avid photographer and proceed to show us incredible pictures he had taken during his seven tours of duty on the ice. He then went through all the photos and gave each of us several to keep. He also gave us some Russian bread, just like my wife's Baba (Russian for grandmother) used to make. We "talked" (dictionary, sign language and drawing (boy, am I glad I know how to play Pictionary!) for two hours. He also showed us his equipment and explained that in his 7 polar years, he had performed 25 surgeries. We talked about the problems in Russia - the poverty and the sky-rocketing cost of living. As a surgeon, Vladimir I makes about $3,000 US dollars per year. As I recall, that might be the bill for one or two minor operations in the USA! Before we left, I wanted to show my sincere appreciation for not only the tour he gave us; but more importantly, for sharing with us what little he had. So, I gave him my sweatshirt. This engendered the others to kick in two hats and a roll of film. He was taken back by these gestures and proceeded to present me with a pair of Russian polar mittens.
The good doctor couldn't leave the ship, I don't know why; but Vladimir II returned with us to the Palmer. Vladimir II had been at Mirny for one and 1/4 year and was finally going home. He ate mid rats (midnight rations) with us and I convinced Tony ("Mt. Gow") to show him around our ice lab. Vladimir had been so gracious that we each gave him a gift: I, my Panther hat (sorry, Class of '78),Tony, two chocolate bars and Ruthanne, a sweatshirt from N. Texas State. Vladimir II left around 1250; I went back to the galley where I met John Evans. John said flag lowering ceremonies for ICWI were scheduled for tomorrow (Monday, June 8, at 1500 hrs). I guess I was wrong, it looks like we'll be out of here in four days. In actuality, a tremendous amount of work has been done today. Went to bed at 0200.
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