19 November, 1996
Max temp - 3.1° C Min temp - 10.2 ° C Prevailing Wind 14 knots Today was a VERY long day. We were up at 6:30AM and never left the lab until late The weather continues bright, but it is much colder and windy. You have to remember to put on your gloves and hat and zip the windbreaker all the way up before you leave a building.
Jennifer and I met our PI, Dr. David Braaten, as we were going to breakfast. He had arrived from the South Pole at 5:30 AM and had put his gear away, eaten breakfast and was going to bed for a rest. We were to meet him at 2-3 PM in the lab.
We had been expecting him from the Pole Monday or Tuesday but didn't know when he would arrive. They have been having a lot of trouble getting to and from the Pole due to weather.
Flights to and from the Pole are problematic. Three of the scientists we flew with on the way to McMurdo had tried three times before they ever got there. On the second try the pilots circled the pole three times trying to get a good view of the runway and had to give up and fly back to McMurdo. Can you imagine the frustration? Even when we landed at McMurdo the pilots had to circle the runway twice to check it out. Such little things we take for granted in the states when we fly.
We decided to quickly do some housekeeping chores and run errands before the meeting. We washed 2 loads of clothes and didn't have time to get them dried. We laid them on the beds and hung them up all over the room. When we returned to our rooms later this evening, all were dry, even our heavy jeans. It is SOOOOOOO DRY here.
We decided to write some post cards to send home and found the post office. The post office is only open on certain hours and is closed on Wednesday so we didn't want to wait until tomorrow. Postage rates are the same as in the states except that everything is rated from Los Angeles where the mail first arrives in the US. Since I wanted to send a parcel to Florida, it will be more expensive than for others, but still not an International rate. All mail is sent FPO (flight post office) and is rated at San Francisco.
I made a phone call home. The connection was so clear. It is amazing to talk to someone thousands of miles away and it sounds as if they are next door. Isn't technology wonderful?
We had to return one of the chords on the HF radio. It hadn't worked when we field tested it on the road to Willie Field yesterday. The chord was to the solar panel which supplies power for the radio. In the process we had used the same chord on both radios and had wiped out the memory settings on the frequencies. The frequencies can be manually set, but it is more convenient to have them set automatically. When we returned the chord we found that those radios are used for the military and have a special feature that allows the frequencies to be immediately wiped from memory in case the radio is captured by the enemy. We had accidentally activated that mode.
After lunch we met Dr. Braaten to sort out what needed to be done in the next few days. Jennifer and I are going out to Willie field to gather data for our research Thursday. This means we have to check the survival bag because we will be in the field all day. We also have to remember to request a bag lunch from the galley Wednesday evening. We were reminded that we need to wear extreme cold weather gear and take extra hats, gloves and socks. It is a little scary when you think you have to remember to take a 2 person survival pack, but they always take precautions.
What is in a survival bag? Two sleeping bags, 2 foam pads, small tent, stakes, 2 big bags(tarps), whisper light camp stove, matches, fuel, small set of pans, and food for 3 days. We had the stove checked out because it was missing a pump and got fuel. Mat at the Berg Field Center checked the bag out again for us to be sure it was packed properly. Then we had to go next door and get the extra dehydrated food : 6 large bags of dehydrated meals, 10 packs of hot chocolate, 4 huge Cadbury candy bars, 6 granola bars.
The tent, sleeping bags, liners, etc. Dr. Braten used at the Pole had to be hung up to dry in the field center. Tomorrow morning we will pack them back up in a zipper bag and place them back in our cage where all our field gear had been gathered.
The amount of effort needed to prepare to go out in the field just amazes me. A second thing is that the people here are so helpful. Doing science in Antarctica takes so much thought and preparation.
After dinner go to the lab and begin our set up to analyze the snow cores Dr. Braaten brought from AGO2, a site at the Pole. His apparatus sprays very small glass beads (120 microns) out over the snow every two weeks for a year. We now need to find the beads in the snow. We need to melt the snow cores so that takes two ovens and 40-50 2 L beakers. We will need to filter the water so we try to make a good set-up to rapidly filter the water. We thought of suction filtration in the traditional manner, but the beads need to be concentrated on the filter paper or we will never find them. Using suction filtration in the normal funnel causes problems if the pressure is reduced too much. It this happens, a hole is torn in the filter paper. Much time is spend trying to adjust the pressure to get good filtration without tearing the paper.
Any equipment needed is available in the stockroom. One side is full of normal apparatus and you just go and get what you need. The other side has apparatus which must be checked out, like balances, pumps, centrifuges, etc. If a scientists had planned on using an unique piece of equipment, he had to have ordered it months in advance so the equipment would be there for him. We run into Dr. Scott Borg, one of the NSF program directors. It was nice to chat with him. He wanted to know how the experience would change how I teach. (It already has!) He wanted to know about the project Jennifer and I were working on. He is a geologist and had been here many seasons. I have seen him around and he always seems interested in what people are doing. He had come to briefly visit with the TEA's in Washington DC. He really is an interesting person, one of many whom I met. He also said that permission would be granted for me to take home a couple of rocks for educational purposes. They will have to be shipped with Dr. Braaten's equipment, but I will get them eventually. That really pleases me!!
After about another hour in lab we decide that it is time to go to bed because it is now 10:30PM. This has been a LONG day.
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