19 January, 1999
Tuesday, January 19th, 1999, South Pole Station
Today I slept through the night the first time. Throughout the day, we had again only minus 22 to 24 degrees Celsius with bright sunshine and little wind (about 5 knots). 'What an Antarctic Summer we are having!' everybody says. I agree and I hope you had a good day as well.
I spend the morning answering students' questions via email. After lunch, Bryan and I talked more about data presentation and analysis and I spend the remaining part of the afternoon until 6:45 writing or editing journals and downloading pictures from my camera. If there is anything you want me to take pictures of, let me know. I would be glad to do so. Did you find the answer about the size of the balloon at high altitude? The balloon would rise from an air pressure at the surface of about 695mb to about 6mb at 35 km. Following the law of pressure and volume, the volume of the balloon would increase. I discussed this with Andy and Bryan and we calculated that the size of the balloon would increase theoretically by almost 100 times. During dinnertime, I had the chance to catch up with Andy and Joel, talk to some other scientists about their projects, and also meet one of the priests of Antarctica. He is from New Zealand and has been serving in different parts of Antarctica for the past 16 years. I have noticed that McMurdo has a chapel, which is shared by people of different religions.
Since I worked all day in rooms without windows, I was eager to use my skies in the Antarctic snow. I decided to check out the ski hut, about 1 and 1/2 miles away from the station. Bryan joint me and we quickly signed out with 'comm', the department responsible for all communication at the station, including air traffic and for communication with other stations around the Antarctic. When some one would like to leave the South Pole Station in allowed directions and within the limitation, the time of leave and direction has to be reported and listed on a board and a 'walky-talky' has to be taken along. There are two official locations or 'sights' within the station. One is the ski hut build about 5 years ago for recreational purpose. The other sight, so we heard, is a crushed plane, about 2 miles off station.
By 10p.m., we were ready to go, equipped with wind gear and extra clothing, enough water, some chocolate, and our photo equipment. The wind had picked up to about 8 knots. However, when we left the station, we were going with the wind. The Antarctic sun was as glorious as ever and there was not one single cloud on the sky. What a gift. We took our time, stopped for photos and enjoyed the vast space in front of us. How Amundsen must have felt on his skies day after day? I have to admit that his name came into my mind many of times as I crossed the ancient snow. When I imagined that I skied on snow no one ever skied on and that it was ancient snow, I felt a little bit like a pioneer. I also felt very honored to be able to experience such special environment and to parcticipate in the preservation of this continent. When I turned back, I saw the station from afar and the space in front of me was breathtaking: all white with bright blue sky. The sun made the snow look like scattered with diamonds. Low snowdrift sculptures everywhere gave evidence of the power of strong Antarctic winds.
We arrived at the hut within an hour. The hut was rather comfortable and very warm. It was constructed in such a way so that the sun would passively heat it. There was a camping stove, pots, tea, and soup. One could take even a nap on a full size bed. I also found colored pencils and a guest book with interesting entries. A friend caught up with us and we sat in the hut for a little while to rest, had some sweets and water and told stories we knew about Antarctic explorers. The way back to the station was a bit slower because we were going against the wind and we were home by 1 a.m. I must have been asleep by 2 a.m. I have two questions for today: what is a knot and why did I ski on ancient snow? Until tomorrow…
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